Marketing of potatoes and their respective pricing often depends on what is happening with the crop in other parts of the world and there are some significant events that growers should be aware of.
This Crop Update focuses on the European crop and growing conditions with information sourced from World Potato Markets, NEPG, AMI, and AHDB.
The North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) represents the five largest growing countries in Europe. Here is an estimate of their 2018 planted acreage:
- Germany 437,000 acres
- France 337,000 acres
- Great Britain 253,000 acres
- Belgium 239,000 acres
- Netherlands 189,000 acres
Plantings are down 0.2% on last year. World Potato Markets report a “Tense market for Fry Quality Potatoes”. Regions growing storage potatoes are not marketing anything and crops are being kept alive with irrigation, where possible, in the hopes of further growth, AMI reports. Temperatures in the north are forecast to remain above 30 degrees until tomorrow with no significant rainfall.
Some potatoes are already being harvested for storage under difficult conditions. Prices are unchanged and supported by the tense market for potatoes of fry manufacturing quality. There could even be some movement of table potatoes into the processing sector.
High temperatures in the Lower Saxony region have restricted packing, and rain which fell last week was only enough to wet the dust with hardly anything reaching the roots. AMI comments that much of the main harvest already has skin set after weeks in hot, dry ground and there could be quality problems if the weather were to change.
The shortage of potatoes this season is having an impact on early potato prices with some lots double the price of similar samples a year ago. There has been a 3.6% increase in planted acres so France could still deliver a reasonably large crop. France has had a little more rain than other areas, but is still suffering from the drought. Growers are hoping that at least some of the crop will respond positively to the arrival of cooler conditions and rain this week. It will probably be too late for some crops that are starting to die off but could boost others that had been previously irrigated.
Planted acreage was down 3.6% with a 16% harvest reduction likely, reports ADHB. Growers responded to the lower trend in open prices in 2017 and adjusted their acreage accordingly. However, the key criteria affecting the yield of this year’s crop is planting date. Growers struggled to get this year’s crop planted due to a cold wet spring. Those crops planted in good time and which have been irrigated should show only slightly reduced yields.
However, the crops planted late are struggling and showing signs of stress. Non-irrigated fields are yellowing and showing early maturity. Solids are also very high which is a concern for potential bruising. Early prices are showing signs of strengthening with ADHB quoting values of up to 400pounds/tonne (Maris Peer type). For processing (Accord type) is fetching 270-300/ tonne. A year ago, this same variety was being sold for 85 pounds/tonne.
Acreage was up by 1.4% but the spring was wet creating major problems with seed piece decay. The weather turned very dry in June and July. Significantly below average yields have been shown in the harvests of Bintje and Fontane. Trials by the grower associations show yields of 23 tonnes/ha, well below trials at similar dates over the past 4 years. Solids were also far above normal. Based on these trials, the grower association, Fiwap, concludes more substantial rain and moderate temperatures are needed to avoid heading towards an even more catastrophic harvest. New and old crop prices have soared in response to harvest fears. The Belgapom organization quoted a first free-buy price of 250 pounds/tonne, compared to a 175 pounds/tonne quote in 2017 and a 30 pounds/tonne quote in August last year.
The planted acreage was up 1.1% however the crops do not look as good as usual, particularly those which have not benefitted from irrigation. Growth potential of the crop is now limited which has created a strong physical market.
As readers can see, European potato growers are dealing with a challenging growing season, which will likely have an effect on both potato supply and potato markets.
Source: United Potato Growers of Canada