By FWi staff

TOTAL potato planting in Great Britain is estimated at 145,137 hectares, nearly 7% lower than the 1999 total of 155,595ha, according to provisional figures released by MAFF last week.

It is also below the five-year average of 150,199ha.

Final yield estimates are yet to be determined, although a reduction on the 1999 level is expected.

“The combination of these two factors has resulted in confidence for the GB market this season,” said Rob Burrow of the British Potato Council.

“But what we have to watch is production in northern Europe, which shows a marked contrast and is already having some effect on the GB market.”

Total production in Europe this year is predicted to be higher than 1999 and prices are already depressed.

“If conditions continue as they are then supplies could be restricted which will lead to a price increase.

“Buyers will then start to look to cheaper produce from northern Europe,” adds Mr. Burrow.

This could also effect GB import figures, and evidence of this is already being seen, particularly in the processing sector.

Total imports from 1 August are estimated at 40,000t compared with only 1800t last year, when prices in northern Europe were more in line with those in GB, said Mr. Burrow.

In East Anglia and Lincolnshire supplies are tight, with grade 1 Edward mainly 150-180/t, reds 120-140/t and Maris Piper 165/t for best.

Grade 2 samples are mostly 50-90/t.

Bags are mainly 70-120/t, up to 170/t for Edward and 140/t for Cara.

Bulk whites in the south and Wales are mainly 90-120/t up to 150/t for best Maris Piper.

Bagged whites are mostly 80-90/t, reds 70-110/t.

In the Midlands, prices continue to ease. Bulk whites are mainly 100-120/t, reds 80-150/t.

Bagged Maris Piper are 75-115/t with non chipping material mainly 60-100/t.

Prices in the north and Scotland are easier with bulk whites mainly 50-90/t, up to 140/t for best Edward from Scotland.

Bag supplies in the north are 90-100/t for best and mainly 80-90/t in Scotland up to 150/t for Kerrs Pink.

The BPC weekly GB ex-farm average price eased last week by 5.34 to 95.57/t excluding bags.

This compares with 68.97/t including bags in 1999.