Dismal weather which has left the UK look at its worst potato harvest in 36 years has affected crops in much of Europe too, with only
Poland among major producing nations expecting a bigger crop.
European Union exports of frozen potato products "are expected
to be somewhat lower" in 2012-13, creating opportunities for rival shipping
nations, thanks to the weaker harvests, US Department of Agriculture staff
Output in the EU has been hurt not just by the knock-on
effect of lower prices last year, which prompted many growers to plant
alternative crops for this season, but also by, in many countries, poor weather,
which in the UK included the wettest summer in a century.
Industry data on Wednesday showed the UK harvest reaching
32% completion, or 39,000 hectares, as of the end of last week, a little over
half the figure a year ago, and some three weeks behind normal.
'Cold and rainy
In Belgium, the output of ware, or food, potatoes - as
opposed to crop used for seed, feed or processing into starch - is seen falling
some 17% to 3.45m tonnes, thanks to a double whammy of lower sowings and
"Yields are expected to be lower by more than 10%," the USDA
staff said, noting "an unfavourable rainy growing season" following on from
sowings delayed by a "cold and wet spring".
In the Netherlands, the ware crop is seen falling by more
than 13% to 3.34m tonnes, the lowest since at least 2007, the earliest figure
readily accessible to Agrimoney.com, thanks to smaller plantings and a "cold
and rainy growing season through mid-August".
And in France, the potato crop is seen falling 12% to 5.00m
tonnes, despite stable acreage, "due to poor weather conditions throughout the
growing season, especially a very wet early summer which boosted mildew
"Quality is reported to be below average with more small-sized
potatoes," the USDA officials said in a report.
'Record high yield'
However, weather was less of a problem further east, with 10%
drop to 6.8m tonnes in Germany's ware potato harvest seen down to lower sowings,
with yields forecast reaching "average" levels.
And neighbouring Poland is seen as enjoying a record yield,
of 24 tonnes per hectare, enabling production to rise some 5% despite a drop in
"This record high yield is the result of excellent weather
conditions during the growing season," the report said.
Impact on exports
The results will enable Poland to raise exports to Russia in
However, the rising tide of shipments of processed potato
products, such as frozen French fries - which soared 22% to 3.77m tonnes between
2008-09 and 2011-12 driven by growing demand for fast food in Latin America,
the Middle East and South East Asia - looks set to go into reverse.
"This can create additional opportunities for US products in
export markets like Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates
and Brazil," the briefing said.