By Farmers Weekly staff

NEW-POTATO lifting is gathering pace in Cornwall, as better weather leads to improved samples which supermarkets are willing to stock.

More volume is being shifted earlier, says John Harris, British Potato Council field manager. “Crops are improving. It has been very wet, and samples have not been very attractive. Lifting now seems to be going a lot better.”

In the week which sees the start of the British Potato Councils early-potato promotion, samples had brightened and could now compete with good-looking Majorcan and Spanish imports, he says.

The earlier crop is also competing with Jersey Royals; lifting has been delayed due to poor weather. “These have not been looking quite as good – and people do buy with their eyes,” says Mr Harris. “We think we can give them a run for their money.”

About 40t of Cornish earlies a day were lifted over the holiday weekend, and the crop was worth 25-30p/lb (£550-660/t). Volume will gradually build, due to delayed plantings.

While this could mean some Cornish growers miss the best prices, frost damage in other parts of the country, notably Kent, could keep supplies steady, says Mr Harris.

“The good news is that the multiples have indicated they are going to take the crop earlier. Tesco are already doing so, and Sainsbury and Asda have said they will start soon. There was some concern that we might not meet demand, but we should be able to do so now.”

Pembrokeshire will be the next area to start, though it will be mid-May before appreciable volumes are lifted, says field manager Gavin Robinson.

  • National Chip Week (15-19 February) produced a record equivalent advertising value of over £1.1 million, says the BPC. Coverage was achieved on several leading TV and radio shows, and many daily newspapers. The promotion was also pushed by backers Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury. It is too early to assess if consumption rose.