30 August 2002

Potato price pressure

POTATO plantings in the UK are higher than originally expected, but are still 3% down on last year, according to the British Potato Councils most recent estimate.

Early varieties continue to lose favour, as better storage encourages growers to hold maincrop potatoes for longer, depressing new crop markets. Early plantings have fallen by 10% year-on-year, to 50,000ha (124,000 acres), while maincrop area has increased by almost 2%, to 92,000ha (227,000 acres).

Although most 2001 stocks have now been shifted, an early harvest and big yields mean oversupply continues to keep prices under pressure, says the BPCs Rob Burrow. Many growers have also been eager to move early potatoes to make space for the expected large maincrop harvest.

The BPC weekly average price, including contracts, fell by 59p/t last week to £77.95/t, while spot prices have fallen by almost £4/t, to just £68.36/t. Any contracted growers with surplus tonnages are finding it hard to move produce on the free market, says Mr Burrow.

However, with harvest 11% complete, storage of maincrop is now underway. "This should reduce the supply coming onto the market, which should stabilise prices. Perhaps we could even see some better values for some quality varieties." &#42