The UK Is Changing Tastes in Potato Varieties
The traditional “all-round” varieties, such as Maris Piper are losing ground and are being replaced by alternatives, according to a report published by AHDB.
The trend for more contract based varieties infers more growers are turning to contracts, potentially to shield risk and move away from the more volatile free-buy market.
The revised estimate for the total 2018 potato planted area in GB is 117.3Kha, down 4.4% from the 2017 area of 122.8Kha. The updated value is 2.1Kha below the first August estimate (119.4Kha). The revised estimate represents the GB area covered by over 90% of producers, and reflects both lasts years high production and challenging market conditions, coupled with the difficulties in planting in spring. Despite the fall in the overall GB area, there continues to be change within the sector.
Movement was seen within the top 10 potato varieties this year, although the top three most widely grown varieties have retained their position.
Maris Piper, down but still the most popular
Maris Piper remains the most popular variety, although the area has undergone a third consecutive year of decline it is forecast to be down 8.4% year on year, to 15.1Kha. The traditional all-round variety is losing ground as change is being seen in the kitchen table white packing market.
Additionally, the longer term trend for a declining Maris Piper area likely reflects changes in the incentives for growers. Growers could be opting to choose to grow on contract for specific sectors rather than choosing a more versatile variety such as Maris Piper. Another, and perhaps more influential, reason could relate to agronomic factors, with Maris Piper not performing as well in relation to scab and rots as newer, more resistant, varieties.
Nectar climbed two places to become the fourth most widely grown potato variety in Great Britain, rising 0.5Kha on the year to 3.7Kha. Positive reports about the yield potential and packing market demand for Nectar are likely to have driven the area increase.
Conversely, in the packing sector, Harmony recorded the largest year on year decline in area, declining by over 50% on the year. Previously, Harmony had been a top 20 variety by area. However, in 2018 Harmony lost ground to other packing varieties with preferential qualities.
A long term trend developing has been a shift in demand for contracted and specialized crisping and French fry varieties.
The most widely grown crisping variety in GB remains Lady Rosetta, despite recording a fifth consecutive year of decline. Other crisping varieties, such as Taurus, have seen an increase during this period. This signals a shift in varietal preferences, as the retail market looks for innovation and premium products requiring different characteristics. Additionally, purchasing behavior has been shifting, in the crisping market there has been a gaining popularity for crops sold off the field over short term storage.
Royal, a popular variety for the contracted French fries market has seen one of largest rises on the year, up 0.5Kha to enter the top 10 at 2.9Kha. Its rising popularity is linked to reportedly better agronomic qualities over rival frying varieties.
Planting in 2018 continued to record changes in the top 10 planted varieties. Newer entrants, that suit today’s needs both at consumer level and agronomic challenges have increased in popularity.
Planted area information is collected by AHDB Potatoes via planting return forms sent to growers. The difficulties in planting and subsequent extra on-farm demand caused by the hot summer delayed the return of forms required for this release.
The revised estimate for 2018 potato plantings in GB is 117.3Kha, down 4.4% from the 2017 area of 122.8Kha. This area is based on returns covering more than 90% of registered area and follows the August estimate (based on more than 60% of the registered area). As with all estimates based on a sample, results should be treated with caution as, despite every effort to make the sample as representative as possible, there is a possibility that the planting decisions made by those not included in the sample may differ from those who are included.