UK Potato Stocks High, but Marketing Season May Extend
The stocks of potatoes held by GB growers at the end of March totaled 1.3Mt according to an Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) 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 tons have 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% of the crop in the ground, but this year there are growers who aim for the early market that are still planting,” said Amber.
In contrast to 2017’s planting, where quicker than average progress and a very dry, warm April was recorded, the 2018 planting season to date has been consistently hindered by wet and cold weather for much of the UK. At this point in the season we would usually expect to have around 60% of the crop in the ground, but this year there are growers who would typically aim for the early market who are still planting, according to AHDB.
“We continue to see a higher level of stocks held in growers’ stores than in recent seasons, driven by the high level of production. However, as poor quality supplies are disposed of, or moved to other markets, the rate of depletion has increased since the end of January. Couple this with the delayed planting progress and the possibility of an extended 2017/18 marketing season becomes more likely. If this was the case, this would allow time to utilize much of this season’s over supply before new season crops are ready,” according to AHDB report.