By FWi staff

THE potato market has finally shown signs of change following a period of firm prices and a steady trade.

Growers confidence is weakening in the mid-quality stock range, while buyers are attempting to apply pressure on prices generally, noted the British Potato Council.

Demand for quality stocks remains strong, although interest in poorer quality material is weakening.

The popularity of Piper is legendary this season, and prices remain firm for that variety, said a spokesman for the BPA.

“Forced sales of small, unattractive types are pushing such material lower at present, and the overall price range therefore remains wide,” he said.

Planting of new crops, as well as the lifting of over-wintered material, is slow due to the wet weather throughout much of the country.

Bulk quality supplies remain tight, helping to keep values firm at between £170-£180/t. Middle-of-the-range quality are at £220-£250/t, while top white samples are fetching as much as £295/t and reds £310/t.

Grade two values are starting to suffer, with the bulk of poor-quality, unsuitable for packing, at £80-£120/t. However, better samples are selling at £120-£170/t.

Frying Piper is the most popular variety for the bag market, starting at £140/t. The majority are trading at £160-£190/t, with best samples at £260/t.

Processing material is £120-£160/t for the chipping market with Piper at 170/t. Ex-farm crisping starts at £100/t, up to £150/t for top samples.

Despite this strong demand in the quality market, increased movement of poorer-quality samples this week pushed the BPC weekly GB ex-farm price down £3.77/t to £180.35/t. This compares with £81.46/t a year ago and £56.87/t in 1997.

Processing values failed to hold, slipping £2.85 to £190.38/t, while the futures market was also indecisive. April contracts rose in London to £325/t on Friday but fell back in Amsterdam at £224/t.