Written by Stuart Mitchell – Mitchell Potatoes
After another Wet October harvesting potatoes into store is almost complete. There are a few reports of fields that are too wet to lift the potatoes but generally most crops have made it into store on time.
Growers are reporting average yields, ranging from 13 ton per acre up to 20ton. Official production estimates have not yet been released by AHDB. It’s worth bearing in mind that overall planted area is the third lowest on record at 117,466 hectares. Therefore, total production may not reflect current price levels.
Demand continues to be an issue in the chipping sector with most merchants estimating sales to be down between 10% and 20%. Potatoes originally destined for fish and chip shops will now make their way into other sectors of the potato industry where demand has increased due to Covid-19.
The most likely driver to push prices higher this season will be fry quality. Fry colour will be a major issue from march onwards with the banning of CIPC* as a sprout suppressant. This is the first season the industry has not been able to use this. Growers are experimenting with spearmint oil, and Ethylene but neither have shown amazing results in keeping a consistent fry colour. Best samples are expected to be limited and receive high values from early spring onwards.
The next concern for the fish and chip industry is next Season’s crop with talk across the growing sector of large cuts in acreage which could lead to the smallest planted area on record in the UK. This will be coupled with a weak pound, preventing the likelihood of cheap imports after Brexit.
Chlorpropham (CIPC) is an agrochemical widely used as a sprout suppressant on stored chipping potatoes. It is used because chipping potatoes must be stored above 7 °C any lower and you will have dark chips. It is applied to potatoes as a fog in the storage building. It’s required so potatoes remain firm and sprout free for the months of March, April, May and June. All agrochemicals are regulated by government bodies. They have reduced the tolerance for CIPC on potatoes to such a low level that it will no longer be effective as a sprout suppressant.