UK potato processors' concern over weather-hit crops

UK potato processors have highlighted concerns over the impact the recent "extreme" wet weather has had on crops.

On 15 November, a report from UK farmer body The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has said growers have lifted up to 89% of the 2019 potato harvest.

However, The Potato Processors' Association, the trade body for UK manufacturers of products from fries to crisps, has warned weather conditions have worsened since the report was published, with much of the remaining crop still in field and not be able to be lifted.

Andrew Curtis, director general for The Potato Processors' Association, said: "This is the second consecutive year that the potato harvest has been impacted by adverse weather conditions."

The association said the problems with the 2019 harvest are "compounded by the fact that 2018 was one of the worst GB potato harvests in recent years". Last year, volumes were "significantly lower than average", with quality also affected, the association added.

Of the 2019 harvest, the AHDB reported 67% of the regional potato-growing area in England's North West had been lifted by 12 November. In Yorkshire, more than a fifth of the crop remains in the ground.

The Potato Processors' Association has also expressed concern about the quality of the potatoes going into storage.

The association said harvesting under wet conditions with heavy soil contamination – which it said had happened in Yorkshire – will usually increase the risk of damage at harvest and crop loss in store. The trade body said there were "limited reports of rot or disease in store" but insisted: "It remains a real threat to the sector and could significantly disrupt supply."

Asked by just-food if the association's members would look to increase prices from customers, Curtis added: "That would be a commercial decision by the individual companies, and of course their individual circumstances may be very different.

"For the moment this is about raising awareness of the potential issue in terms of overall supply and potential impacts on quality. The AHDB headline is very positive, but there is much more detail in the report which is of a concern. The weather hasn't improved since 12 November and processing varieties appear to be disproportionality impacted due to their location and need for bulking in field.

"Unless there is a significant improvement in the weather it seems highly unlikely that much of the remaining potato material will be able to be lifted."

Source: Just Food