By FWi staff

POOR harvest conditions for potatoes always mean better ex-farm prices – and this year was no exception.

The British Potato Councils first harvest estimate of the season was down, at 6.25 million tonnes, compared with 6.853 million tonnes in 1997.

Everything pointed to higher prices from the start of the season, when planting was delayed due to wet weather.

As the season developed, so did blight problems, and lifting was postponed in many areas as heavy rain flooded fields.

As the wet weather continued, some farmers gave up lifting completely.

The BPC anticipates that as much as 8000ha of potatoes – the highest level since 1992 – will still be in the ground on Christmas day.

Bad harvests on the Continent due to poor weather and heavy rain have also helped potato prices, with April 1999 futures reaching £330/t in London.

The final December average price is at an all-time physical high – £167.99/t. What happens next is anyones guess.

Potato trends, 1998

In 1995, when prices were at a similar high of £165/ t, values fell after the holiday period.

But in 1994, the pre-Christmas price of £158 continued upwards for the rest of the season.