Wet weather makes spud futures rocket

By FWi staff

FUTURES markets soared to a two-year high towards the end of last week as April 1999 prices rose to £209/t in London and £168/t in Amsterdam.

This massive increase in futures was attributed to the wet weather, said a spokesman from Branston Potatoes Ltd, Lincoln. “There was hype in the market as traders feared that the rain would damage a large amount of crop area.

“However, the wind has done a relatively good job at drying the soil out, and so far producers have not actually been losing crop. It is the long-term storage that is expected to be a problem.”

Those involved in the physical trade took less notice of conditions, realising that harvesting depends on whether frost and rain will persist, noted the British Potato Council.

They are confident that, given a dry spell, harvesters will be capable of a large weekly clearance and the crop could still be safely in by late November.

As a result prices remained reasonably stable last week. However, with growers preoccupied with storage, some market sectors were light on supplies and the BPC said that bottom-end ware prices inched up towards the end of the week.

Traders say that spot prices could weaken. With the good prices on offer for spot movement and the poor weather conditions, many producers may be tempted to sell off-the-field rather than risk storage.

The bulk trade held its price last week on the back of continued demand for good packing material. Samples range between £135-165/t, with best varieties reaching £200/t. Average samples sell for up to £120/t, with poorer samples at £80/t.

Interest in bagged samples is poor, with prices ranging between £70 and £120/t. Top Piper samples are at £140/t and Edward can fetch £175/t.

The BPC weekly GB ex-farm price remains steady at £117.07/t, compared with £64.87 in 1997 and £57.86/t in 1996. When all processing purchases are deducted, the ware market inched up slightly to £128.91/t. This compares to a mere £58.47 last year.

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