PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 17:08 UK, 20th Jan 2014, by James Moore
Improved harvest revised British potato stocks

Britain's potato stocks posted a healthy 25% recovery over the past year, reversing the drop recorded in 2012 as farmers were hampered by harsh weather conditions.

Latest estimates showed that British potato growers stocks totalled 3.3m tonnes at the end of November 2013, a rise of 25% from the 2.7m tonnes a year before.

The rise was a reflection of a much stronger harvest, "with production in 2013 currently estimated up 21% from 2012," the UK's official Potato Council  bureau reported, adding the poor 2012 crop was "generally viewed as an extremely unusual year".

Potato production last year recovered to 5.5m tonnes, having posted a 24% reduction in 2012 to 4.64m tonnes.

Mixed results in Europe

By contrast the picture in northern Europe suggests farmers are struggling in contrast to the stronger picture in the UK.

The total German potato harvest was one of the lowest in history.

Production from the Lower Saxony region was down 10.9% while production in the country totalled 9m-9.5m tonnes, as flooding in areas of southern Germany damaged crops, more than negating a small expansion of Germany's potato crop area

Variable conditions have been witness across the region with early crops in Belgium failing to benefit from late rains.  The French Ministry of Agriculture maintains its view production would increase by 11% however.

Price impact

Prices reflect the differing conditions.

The prices of processing potatoes in Germany stood last week at the equivalent of £112-128 a tonne, little change from early December, although down from year-ago levels around £169-186 a tonne.

Reported prices for processing potatoes were marginally lower Belgium, France and the Netherlands compared with early-December.  However, prices remain lower than those seen at the start of the previous quarter.

In France, the price is down 23% to £98 a tonne, with a similar decline in Belgian prices.

'Putting hold on planting'

Weather problems continue hamper British farmers though.

Heavy rain fall in December and early January have caused flooding as well as rot issues with stored crops.  While in some regions mild weather has seen some stocks "starting to break dormancy", the council said.

The extension of the wet conditions has plagued farmers with early-sown crops in 2014 too, in the south west of England, where a warmer climate and sandy soils encourage farmers to cash in on higher-priced early-season crops

"The wet weather has put a hold on planting in the South and previously planted crops covered with polythene have retained their covers, despite some gale force winds," the council said.

UK prices averaged £153.98 a tonne last week, down 37% year on year but showing an upward short-term trend,  the council said.

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