By Farmers Weekly staff

WARE potato prices have continued to drift, prompting some producers and traders to write off the coming maincrop season.

The average weekly price for earlies was just £71.30/t for the week ending 8 July, compared with almost £121/t at the same time last year, says the British Potato Council.

Although up 54p on the week, it includes premium-value small grades, frying material and specialist varieties, says the BPC. Despite recent hot weather, and cheap supplies, with most supermarkets offering home-grown earlies at 9p/lb (£198/t), demand remains slow, with one of the lowest weekly July clearance and movement levels for years.

Given continued promotion of imported new potatoes crop and old maincrop by retailers, prices could stay under pressure as liftings rise.

Values kicked off this week at £30-£52/t for bagged Cornish produce, £40-£55/t in Pembroke and Shropshire. Prices were slightly higher in Cheshire, Lincolnshire and Scotland.

But better orders have been reported from some packers. And slow and late planting, together with high seed prices, means that this years potato area may not be as high as once thought, says the BPCs Rob Burrow.

Yields could also suffer. “We have seen quite good early yields. But that does not automatically mean we shall have good maincrop yields, especially given that quite a lot of maincrop was planted late.”