31 May 1996

Spud plantings at 155,000ha?

NOBODY doubts that the area of potatoes planted this season will exceed last years. The question is by how much.

With planting still under way in parts of the Midlands, Lancashire and Scotland this week, trade estimates put the total between 150,000 and 155,000ha. This compares with last years final figure of 146,341ha.

The Potato Marketing Boards planting guideline of 146,000ha has already been exceeded, despite advice that, with this being the first year with no quota, growers should not expand areas.

"But the biggest determinant of production is not area, but yield," points out chairman of Anglian Produce Robin Pooley. "This year we have probably already lost between 2t and 4t/ha as a result of the late start to the season."

Conditions throughout the summer are therefore vital in determining the supply situation and any likely effect on prices. "All is left to play for," say traders.

Tim Relf

&#8226 New-crop lifting continues slowly. By Wednesday (May 29), 185ha had been cleared, well under half the area completed by the same time last year. Gross returns stood at £5150/ha, compared to £6933/ha 12 months earlier.