Estimations show a growth of 2.4 per cent compared with last year and 8.4 per cent compared with the five-year average.
Northwestern European Potato Area Increased
Based upon a provisional estimation of the North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG), the area in the five largest potato countries increased to 609,000 ha of consumption potatoes. This is the largest ever. Although it is not the final area figure (final figures will be published at the beginning of July), the estimations show a growth of 2.4 per cent compared with last year and 8.4 per cent compared with the five-year average. All potato countries on the continent show growth, with France and Belgium at the top.
The fear of lack of seed potatoes to grow more area was not so realistic (more smaller sizes used, more seeds cut), even if prices have increased. Also, production costs, due to higher seed costs and sometimes higher land rents, will probably be higher than those of last year. For Great Britain it is still too early to make a first estimation, so here it has been calculated with the five-year average. However, any growth in area may be capped by last year’s challenging season and high seed prices.
Early Planted Crop
In all five countries, planting was earlier, however due to the cold start of the growing season the crop is now on an average level. The early processing potatoes in Germany and Belgium will be harvested mainly during the middle of July (with the first ones, at very low volumes, at the end of June) which is one week later than average.
During the last NEPG meeting, members agreed the growth of the area is in line with the trend of growing demand for processing and export. The NEPG emphasized it is always the yield and not the area that will make the final harvest quantity, and the growing season is still long. As there will be no carry over of the 2018 harvest, the next potato season will be longer than usual and might need more potatoes. The actual extreme low amount of free potatoes in stock and the later arrival, by one week, of the early processing harvest, will be a challenge for the processing industry as they are hungry for raw material.
Water is the Critical Factor
All countries see large challenges for the water situation, as the levels in reservoirs and wells and ground reserves are much lower than average. Rain is needed for the crop and to guarantee the possibility for irrigation where possible. Some restrictions have already been made.