Skin quality is spud concern
IMPROVING prices for top quality potato samples are increasing the pressure for careful store monitoring. Silver scurf and black dot are major concerns.
With most known suspect samples now cleared, overall quality is improving slightly, says the British Potato Councils Robert Burrow. But wastage, currently at 19%, is considerably higher than last years 12% and prepackers are having to grade hard to get acceptable quality, he notes.
"For the majority of average grades there will be sufficient supplies. But obviously for the top quality it is going to be very tight."
Some stores continue to have problems and need watching very carefully. "In some cases they are breaking down and having to be moved fairly quickly."
Most crops with obvious blight and/or blackleg were shifted before Christmas, agrees Simon Bowen of Anglian Produce. Skin finish is now his main concern.
"We are watching out for silver scurf developing, because there were quite high levels going into store. Black dot, which can lift the skin off and make tubers unsightly, is also a bit of a concern." Early infection caused by the wet June is the culprit, he believes.
Quality out of store at this stage of the year can be tricky to judge, according to John Manchett of Cambs-based MBM Produce. With many farmers on holiday, processors and packers tend to rely more on their own stores, he explains.
"The picture may not be totally representative because they can be more selective about what goes in in the first place."
Colleague Chris Marshall says crops are coming out reasonably well. Skin finish is the main worry. "It was a bad year for potatoes going into store with black dot and silver scurf."
"Black dot in King Edward and Squire could be a bit of a problem," agrees Peter Hewett of Lincs-based Branston Potatoes. "We have seen a bit of frost damage, but it has been easy to grade out." Any crops with obvious blight were sold straight off the field, he notes.n
• Waste 7% up on last year.
• Top quality tubers at premium.
• Skin finish main concern – silver scurf and black dot.
• Blight & blackleg affected stock gone by Christmas.