Spud price fall coincides with higher costs

Potato prices continued their seasonal slide over the past week as harvest progressed and poorer quality processing material was brought straight to the market. The Potato Council’s GB weekly average price was down to £110.24/t last week, some £10/t down on the previous week and slightly below the £114/t at the same time last year.

“It’s fairly normal for prices to fall at this time of year as there’s a lot of material coming onto the market,” the Potato Council’s Denis Alder said. Good quality pre-pack varieties were commanding a decent premium though and in general, prices remained high by historical standards, he said. “They’re not far off last year and 2006 levels, which were both high-price years due to flooding in 2007 and drought in 2006.”

However, the main concern for growers this year, was that cost of production was some £25-30/t higher than last season, principally due to inflated fertiliser and fuel costs, he said. “Although prices are reasonable, net profit won’t be as good.”

Potato lifting had been running about 10 days behind normal since the start of harvest, Mr Alder added. Total clearance (as at 13 October) was estimated at 75,200ha (59%), compared with 108,500ha (83%) at the same time in 2007. Yields were thought to be close to the five-year average of 45t/ha, although there had been some flood-related crop losses in Herefordshire and the borders, he said.

Potato prices

£/t ex-farm High Low Average
Bakers (Estima) 150 110 120-130
Packing King Edward 200 140 170-185
Chipping (Maris Piper) 130-150 85 90-120
Bags (frying & ware) 160 70 100-120

Source: Potato Council

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