8 March 1996

Potato prices ease but quality sought

POTATO prices have eased in recent weeks, averaging £147/t in the week to Mar 1, according to Potato Marketing Board figures.

Stock deterioration, imports and lower consumption earlier in the season have all contributed.

But prices of top quality potatoes, which are in short supply, are still holding firm.

"Producers should grade hard and present the market with what it wants," is the advice of John Anderson of the Scottish Agricultural College. "Taking out an extra 5% could be worthwhile if it raised the price by £20/t, for example," he says.

Tougher grading would also "help the market" by reducing stocks, he points out. Latest figures from the PMB put mid-January stocks at 3.05m tonnes, about 244,000t higher than at the same time in 1995.

Early-crop plantings, meanwhile, totalling 2037ha (5033 acres) at Mar 1, are ahead of year-earlier levels, when they stood at 501ha (1238 acres).

One bullish factor is the export opportunities which could arise due to late plantings in Spain. "This will create demand for top quality supplies," says Mr Anderson.