Potato stocks high, but marketing season may extend

The stocks of potatoes held by growers at the end of March totalled 1.3Mt according to an Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board estimate.

This is a similar level to the same period in 2015 and approximately 300Kt more than the 2017 estimate. It comes as no surprise following the high production figures of 6.04Mt seen in 2017.

Amber Cottingham, analyst at AHDB Potatoes, said: “So far this season, around 4.7 million tonnes has been either sold off the field or moved out of grower held stores since harvest. This is the highest level of movement recorded throughout this period since the 2011/12 season.

“At this time of year, growers will be weighing up the cost of storage versus possible improved returns later in the season. Movement of stock accelerated in the period from March to January, which suggests many growers have either decided to sell or disposed of potatoes due to quality issues.”

Part of the equation that growers are attempting to balance is the length of the marketing season remaining until potatoes planted in 2018 come on to the market. The cool, wet spring means many growers are planting later than planned.

“At this point in the season we would usually expect to have around 60 per cent of the crop in the ground, but this year there are growers who aim for the early market that are still planting,” said Amber.

“Growers visiting our Potato Data Centre can follow trends from previous seasons to help estimate what they might get on the free-buy market. So far the 2017 season has followed a very similar path to the 2011 and 2014 seasons.”

AHDB also offers a storage cost calculator, which allows growers to calculate the price of storing the crop until a point at which they are planning to sell.

Growers can study the price trends of this and previous seasons at potatodatacentre.ahdb.org.uk.

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