By FWi staff

LIFTING conditions improved only marginally last week as many regions suffered more rain and lower ground temperatures.

Conditions have increased concern for those producers with crops still in the ground, noted a spokesman from the British Potato Council. “Clearance was slow, but did gain pace in some areas.”

Last week clearance was estimated at 6,674ha raising the total to date to 119,938ha, an expected 86% of the crop. “Poor conditions are contributing to higher wastage in late crops with bruising, wet rots, slug damage and soil content all rising.”

Price ranges continue to widen as poor quality ex-field produce is cleared, while movement from stores remains slow. Poor-quality produce can start from as little as £70/tonne, but strong demand for higher-quality produce brought prices up to £250/t.

The bulk trade continued to firm over the week and grade 1 packing averaged between £140-£180/t. Best samples fetched up to £230/t while some Cara and Piper climbed as high £250/t.

Poorer and value-pack material were substantially lower ranging from £80-£90, but mostly between £100-£130/t.

“Frying samples are light,” said the BPC. “And best Piper encouraged higher offers of up to £200.” However, most samples fetched from £115-£140 and poorest £80.

Potatoes futures had a volatile week, ending down on Thursday, 12 November at £273 in London and £200 in Amsterdam. The demand for quality material saw the BPC weekly GB ex-farm average price soar £9.96 to £132.47/t. This compares with £70.26 at this time last year and £51.56/tin 1996.

The ware average continued to be firm at £141.98/t, compared with £65.49 in 1997.