Big demand sends seed spuds soaring
HIGH demand for potato seed coupled with low stocks has seen prices for some varieties rocket.
Growers holding out for cheaper supplies like last year will be disappointed, warns the trade.
The price of benchmark varieties like Piper and Peer has climbed to about £220/t delivered, depending on tuber count, says David Scott of Morayshire-based seed Suppliers Gordon and Innes. Those values are almost 60% higher than pre-Christmas levels, a reversal of last season, when prices fell over £100/t.
"A lot of growers who bought early last year got caught out," says Simon Bowen of Anglian Produce. "Consequently, they have been a bit conservative in their ordering this year. I hope they will come off the fence now, there is less good quality seed about."
Piper is gaining popularity with processors and Peer is popular as a pre-packer with supermarkets, says Mr Scott. That demand has put a floor in the market, which has firmed further as merchants offload some seed as ware.
"Buyers have increasingly tight variety specifications," says Agricos Ron Reiss. "We took a hiding last year on less popular ones. Some, like Cosmos and Picasso, are almost impossible to shift."
Prices are expected to remain at £200/t plus for mainstream varieties, with Estima worth about £230/t delivered.
More farmers are chasing seed this season, says Mr Scott. "Many growers have moved away from first earlies after two bad seasons of low prices." But seed production is about 10% down on last year, he adds. Last summers low prices saw some seed, particularly Peer, sold as ware.
"If you know the market, there is not much point in holding back. Otherwise identify your market quickly to get the pick of the right variety."
March and April could spell chaos, warns Mr Reiss. "We are not equipped to grade in such a short time." *