Christmas freeze hits spud growers

By FWi staff

CHRISTMAS provided little respite for potato growers as frost, snow and chill factor winds caused damage to crops still in the ground and halted any possibility of lifting.

“It is too early to predict the exact extent of the damage, but the three or four days of continued hard frost mean that a good many crops will be affected,” says the British Potato Councils Rob Burrow.

“Northern regions have been the hardest hit.

“Most potatoes destined for processing will have been ruined for fry quality, which means that buyers will have to look more at imports.”

And as if this wasnt enough, the thaw and further rain over the new year have again increased the risk of flooding.

“Lifting progress has been minimal, and there are still about 19,000ha in the ground,” adds Mr Burrow.

But there is no indication of further price rises, as yet, as a result of the recent weather.

“It takes a while for frost damage to show its effects in the crop, but over the next couple of weeks we will have a clearer picture of the remaining crop and this will be reflected in the price,” comments Mr Burrow.

In the south and Wales prices are unchanged from before the holiday period, with bulk whites worth mainly 160-180/t up to 210/t for best quality.

Bagged whites are fetching 85-135/t, reds 100-150/t.

Bulk whites in eastern and western regions are averaging 150-185/t, up to 280/t for best Edward and Cara. Reds are worth 200-250/t.

Bag prices remain steady with whites fetching 60-140/t, up to 175/t for best Edward and 190/t for Maris Piper. Reds are worth 90-140/t.

In the north and Scotland bulk whites are averaging 150-200/t, up to 220/t for best Edward south of the border.

Bags remain unchanged, with Maris Piper fetching 85-100/t in Scotland, up to 140/t in northern England.

Trading was light over the Christmas period with the BPC weekly GB ex-farm average to 29 December gaining only 51p to stand at 118.26/t. This compares with 59.08/t in 1999.

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