New-crop confidence up as old-crop tails off

By Olivia Cooper

DEMAND for old-crop potatoes is tailing off rapidly, as supplies begin to dry up, according to British Potato Councils Rob Burrow.

Prices for contracted maincrop are steady, while spot markets are weakening, with an average price of 151.34/t compared with 154.90/t last week.

Mr Burrow comments that supplies of old-crop are dwindling, although some will be stored through till August as usual.

Confidence in the new-crop market is growing as values pick up from recent weak levels.

Most of the first earlies out of the ground have been cleared, but there will be a slight lull in supply until the second earlies are ready for harvest.

“Yields are well down on last year, averaging 16.5t/acre compared with 22t/acre last season,” says Mr Burrow.

“Quality is generally good, although the lack of rain has caused some problems with common scab.

“Producers will need to harvest carefully and some might opt to irrigate prior to lifting,” he says.

Demand is still quiet on the wholesale front, but there is more interest in quality produce for packing.

Sales lag 53% behind last year, at 29,500 tonnes, while clearing falls 35% behind last season.

Imports are negligible, with earlies almost finished, and demand moving towards babies, bakers and early processing markets.

Total imports are well down on last year, which was the lowest for many years.

Overall prices are 100/t up on last year, due to the late plantings and a poor growing season. In Cornwall, 120-150/t is the mark, with graded samples fetching 200-250/t.

On the other side of the country prices might be even higher.

In Lincolnshire, new season earlies are averaging 150-200/t, while good-quality Ulster Prince will fetch up to 270/tonne. Maris Bead and Javelin are selling for 350-450/t in Suffolk and Essex.

The BPCs first estimate of 2001 plantings will be released on Friday 6 July.


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