The North-Western European Potato Growers estimates the upcoming consumption harvest 18 per cent under last year’s and eight per cent under the five-year average. This, in spite of the fact the total consumption area grew 8.4 per cent over the last five years.
The extreme drought and high temperatures all over North-Western Europe resulted in an estimated average yield between 40 and 41 tons per hectare in the five leading potato countries. As the main harvest has hardly started in Great Britain, it is still difficult to come to a reliable estimation, however, a lower harvest across the EU five is expected.
The NEPG estimates the total brut consumption harvest between 23.5 and 24 million tons. This is more than the low harvest of 2012 when 22.5 million tons of consumption potatoes were lifted. However, in that year the demand was 15 per cent lower. In 2012, the average final yields in the NEPG were 44 tons per hectare, higher than this year, but the area was almost 90,000 ha smaller.
The Quality Question
All countries are reporting secondary growth and growers wonder how this crop will keep in storage. During the last weeks, due to secondary growth, dry matter contents have been going down, which will be a quality/storage issue. The NEPG stresses therefore that the main subject will be the quantity of net harvest in the upcoming season, and to answer this question it is still too early.
Most of this season’s potatoes are still in the ground. Between five and 10 per cent waste could be realistic on the mainland, maybe more depending on the weather during the harvest. Most growers will not benefit from the high prices as the majority of all potatoes are contracted and the quantity of ‘overtons’ with good quality on contracts will be limited and in some cases there will be no ‘overtons’ at all. In many countries, growers have asked their governments for a force majeure situation, as they cannot be kept responsible for these low yields and will have to supply their contracted quantities.
Some processors have already lowered their delivery standards and there are reports of table potatoes and/or starch potatoes going into the chipping lines. In case the dry matter will be lower, the processors also need more raw material to produce the same amount of ready product.
In many parts of the NEPG countries, harvesting for putting into stores is delayed because of too dry conditions and some processing lines were not fed during a few hours or days due to lack of potatoes. Growers hope for rain, but also hope for limited quantities, fearing a very rainy autumn, which would impede harvest.