Maincrop yields cause for cheer
potato growers will harvest 6.41m tonnes of 2001 crop, according to the British Potato Councils first estimate.
Although early yields were almost 20% down on last year at 23.9t/ha (9.7t/acre), maincrop yields, at 44.8t/ha (18t/acre), were the highest since 1997, in spite of the late and variable growing season.
Total output is 417,000t ahead of last year, and just 0.85% below the four-year average.
BPC market information manager Rob Burrow reckons this leaves the UK with a fairly balanced supply and demand. "Imports are significantly below last year and exports to Ireland and the Canaries are ahead."
Nevertheless, quality problems abound. Common complaints inc-lude scab, wet rots, blight and breakdown in store. Poorer quality samples cannot be stored, and are being forced onto the market at £25/t.
But demand for top quality material is strong. Premiums for Maris Piper and Desiree have picked up this week, to £100-140/t in the North and Scotland. The BPC spot average price is slightly firmer at £83.03/t excluding bags.
"Prices should remain relatively stable," predicts Mr Burrow. "But although premiums for good quality frying and packing produce are expected to widen throughout the season, dont hold on too long." *