According to the latest information from the North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) organisation, the 2021 potato area for the block fell by some 24,000 ha, from 522,000 to 498,000 ha. According to NEPG, ‘Global production should be around 22.7 million tonnes (MT), which is 0.70 MT tonnes less than 2020. This decrease, coupled with the resumption of most export flows of processed products, leads to a certain balance between current supply and demand. Free markets remain supported by the reluctance of producers to sell what is now in storage, and by the dynamics of finished product sales (factories are having difficulty rebuilding stocks). Industrial processing, however, faces supply difficulties and cost increases for some inputs (energy, oils, packaging, labour), while distant exports remain dependent on the possible resurgence of Covid-19 around the world. These uncertainties aside, most observers nevertheless expect balanced markets throughout the season, with farm prices at least similar to contract.’
After a late start with many growers delaying harvest, Belgium, Holland and Germany experienced slow and difficult harvests, while French growers were able to make the best of good conditions. Yields are described as ‘good to average,’ with processors taking many crops and not being too picky about quality issues.
The biggest issue facing European growers is rising costs. NEPG warned, ‘Diesel and electricity have dramatically increased, spray costs were higher due to enormous late blight pressure. For next season fertilizer prices have increased more than 50 % for potash, and between 200 and 300 % for nitrogen. Potato growing involves ever higher risks, be it financially (higher production costs) or regarding climate change issues.’