UK - Wet harvest weighs on UK potato crop

20.11.2023 189 views

UK potato prices continue to rise, with buyers struggling to secure stocks amid tight supplies of free-buy potatoes. The Mintec Benchmark Prices for English white packing potatoes [Mintec Code: POWP] were last assessed at £330/mt, an increase of 43.4% month-on-month (m-o-m) and 65% year-on-year (y-o-y). Prices for English Maris Piper [Mintec Code: KZ03] also showed strong increases with the assessment last made at £400/mt, up 12.6% m-o-m, and 135% y-o-y.

The tightness in supply has been driven by weather issues throughout the harvest period with heavy rainfall leading to an increase in rots and other quality issues. Further exacerbating the poor conditions was the fact that many growers had delayed crop lifting to bolster yields, following delayed plantings at the start of the season. This resulted in a higher proportion of the crop remaining in the ground when poor weather conditions began. 

“We are seeing increased levels of rot from crops which have been stuck in wet soils. I managed to move some Saxon which had only been in store a couple of weeks and around 30% was rot. Loss during storage is going to be a major issue this year” a UK potato trader told Mintec.

The quality issues have led to concerns among growers regarding their ability to fulfil pre-agreed contracts for the 2023/24 season. This apprehension has led to limited trading activity in the free market, with growers limiting sales until they are certain they can meet contracted volumes. At the same time, farmers capable of meeting their contracts are reluctant to sell excess stocks, as they anticipate higher prices later in the season.

“It has been very hard to get offers on good quality packing potatoes as most growers aren’t willing to engage until they can see how bad the situation is. Supplies seem particularly tight for Maris Piper, King Edwards and good quality reds,” a buyer for a UK packhouse said.

There have been reports of an uptick in growers looking to move supplies that are unsuitable for long-term storage being sold. This has led to market participants suggesting that prices for lower-quality potatoes may be under pressure in the short term until this backlog is cleared.

“With the increased prevalence of rots and other issues from the wet conditions we have seen in the past few months, we are seeing a fair amount of material coming out of stores before it deteriorates. Good quality is still very hard to come by and looking into 2024 this issue is only going to get worse given how bad storage issues are already looking,” a UK packhouse manager disclosed to Mintec.

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