Gran Bretaña: Market reports show a solid potato market in the UK
The overall potato market is looking solid heading toward Scotland’s lifting season according to commentators in the sector.
Last year the sector appeared to be left behind when other commodities shot up in value following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Twelve months on, a sharp rise in prices is yet to materialise but similarly neither has any crash in value hit the sector.
This year’s potato crop will have avoided the drought challenges in 2022 with few fields being irrigated apart from some down in of North Cambridge and Norfolk. On the markets table potatoes are seeing a bit of demand with washed produce getting up to £640/t delivered whilst others at £500/t. Processors are taking potatoes at £450/t to £480/t with bagged chipping material in and around £550/t to £580/t.
Some potatoes have been reported coming from Egypt for the crisping market but this is likely to be dropped quickly when more new season comes online. Some of the lifting in England has been delayed to allow crops to bulk up and finish sizing. A significant volume of frozen French fries is coming in ready to ‘rip and tip’ with many being re-exported from the UK to global markets on the continent. Around 840,000t has come into the UK this year with prices up to around £1100/t.
Overall growers are stating that spot prices are unexceptional but solid although most crops will already be tied up with contracts signed earlier in the year. There appears to be very little old crop still in store which is helping to firm prices.
However, as the bulk of the UK’s potatoes starts getting lifted in the coming months supply will increase which could soften prices. This may affect some farmers who have a volume to sell on the open market outside their contracted volumes. Yield reports suggest average crops overall with a range of performances across the country.
Following the AHDB levy vote to stop their potato work only anecdotal information is available which suggests the planted area down with some commentators could be a near 20% drop. According to Defra, the harvested area for 2022 was 115,000 hectares, and even with an average yield in 2023, this could still reduce overall production compared to 2022.
Looking to harvest, the timing of destruction before lifting will be critical to prevent a second infection from creeping in. Regrowth from crops left in the ground too long in 2022 allowed for increased disease pressure to overwinter and has affected many potatoes in 2023.
Defra, released its potato production figures for 2022/23 which reported a decline of 6.4% compared to the year previous with total production at 4.8 million tonnes. This puts the crop harvested in 2022 to only 139,000 tonnes more than the severely affected crop in 2012, which suffered hugely from a very wet season.