All recent stock surveys in the NEPG countries (North-Western European Potato Growers) show actual potato stocks are higher compared with last season as well as the multiple year’s average. The North-Western yields were 11 per cent higher with an area increase of six per cent. Currently the stocks of potatoes and the balance between demand and supply has a negative effect on the actual free market prices, in spite of the processing industry demanding 15 per cent more input over the last five years.
In December, the NEPG estimated a tar of five per cent, which seems to be realistic or even too low for the NEPG area, as quality problems in the stores have been reported. Especially one variety is often mentioned here. Due to this, the actual supply of potatoes is still sufficient to fill the processors needs; however, recently the processors are back on the market, which could generate a positive effect.
Overall the quality in the stores looks good, however as stores have to be opened earlier than planned due to upcoming quality issues, a lack of good frying quality at the end of the season is realistic. The actual cold weather in North-Western Europe could also lead to extra challenges and as previous years the question is: when will the planting of new stock be finalized in the NEPG area? The first early planting in some German areas have been delayed already.
The activity at the processing side is good, however the needed extra potatoes are almost all contracted so the free market demand is low. The export from the NEPG countries for fresh table potatoes is moving up, based upon the attractive export prices. Furthermore, the export of ready-to-eat potato products to overseas areas is still in the upward trend.
Based upon the actual situation it is expected that next year’s contract prices for processing potatoes will go down, which is confirmed by the NEPG which reports price reductions of five to 10 per cent, depending on the time of delivery, the variety and the processor. Contract prices are not only lower than last season but sometimes also the season before. According to the NEPG, these contract prices are below production costs for the growers.
Growers are advised to plan a realistic growing area of consumption potatoes this spring, realizing that the ongoing trend, away from Bintje towards the high-yielding processing varieties in Belgium and France will continue and could lead to extra average yields and harvest.