24 July 1998

Small fall in spud area

POTATO plantings have fallen by 2% compared with 1997 to 137,5000ha (339,600 acres), according to British Potato Council first estimates.

The figure, based on a sample of producer returns, will, if borne out in practice, help maintain potato prices, especially if the current lower yields run through to maincrop varieties, says BPCs Rob Burrow.

"Yields are about 2t/ha lower than last year. That doesnt mean the trend will continue, though some crops were planted late and crops need sunshine to bulk and boost dry matters, which could indicate lower yields."

However, no shortage is expected long term, so best samples will continue to make good premiums, he believes. But midweek prices rose slightly, as the rain-induced delay to plantings translated into a temporary shortage.

Daily liftings are running at about 8500t, about a fifth lower than this time last year. Prices range from £70-180/t, averaging £123.