Potatoes Grown for Processing Remain Second Largest Sector in the UK
Although still the second largest sector, potatoes grown intended for the processing sector have fallen slightly this year at an estimated 36.1Kha, down 1% from last year’s area, a new report from AHDB has revealed. This is driven mostly by a drop in the planted area of potatoes destined for the crisping sector, rather than French fries.
Most sectors have seen some growth in the planted area compared to last year. The area of potatoes grown intended for the retail market remains the largest and has grown by 1.6Kha year-on-year, and 1.8Kha against the 5-year average. The increase has been driven by a higher proportion growth on contract for the pre-pack market.
The area planted with potatoes intended for the fresh chipping sector has been following a generally downward trend since 2010, although some years have seen a slight uptick year-on-year. This is the case this year, with a 3% rise in the area at 13.4Kha, compared to last year.
The total 2019 planted UK area is 118.95Kha, writes AHDB. The updated estimate puts the area 1% higher than last year and represents the UK area covered by 90% of producers. Although the revised estimate shows a slight increase year-on-year this remains one of the lowest on record. Much of the increase seen in the area has been from small growers increasing their area, a decision likely driven in part by the high priced year of 2018.
UK Planted Potato Area by Variety in 2019
The new report also reveals the top then most widely grown varieties in the country. Together, they account for over 40% of the overall UK area planted for potatoes. This is made up of varieties from all sectors.
Although the top three most grown varieties have held their positions, there have been some interesting changes. Maris Piper has bucked its downward trend (with an exception in 2016), showing an increase of 6.5% from 2018 plantings. Piper accounts for 13.5% of the UK planted potato area this year at 16.1Kha. There has been a shift in the amount of Piper grown on contract for retail compared to free-buy, up 27% compared to the last year and up 43% compared to the 4-year average (2015-2018 plantings). Up next, Markies accounts for 6,09 Kha in terms of planet area, with an increase of 6.8% from 2018 plantings.
In contrast, Maris Peer, although retains the 3rd position, has fallen year-on-year. This brings the total UK area planted to Maris Peer to the lowest since 2010. There have been reports that demand for salad potatoes has been dropping slightly and this could be some of the drivers. Also, Maris Peer is being replaced by newer varieties like Jazzy and Jelly, both experiencing over 20% increase in planted area.
Lady Rosetta just scraped into the top 10 varieties list but has fallen 21.5% compared to last year, dropping it to 10th place at 3.0Kha as other varieties increase in popularity. Lady Rosetta has been overtaken by Taurus as the most widely grown crisping variety at 3.3Kha. Taurus has become a popular crisping variety due to its tolerance to PCN and decent storability. Although much lower down the list, VR808 has also seen a large year-on-year increase in area, the largest of all (as a percentage) at 59%.