The Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit have combined to make 2020/21 a year potato growers will never forget.
That is the view of Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets who chaired a BASF Perfecting Potatoes Together webinar. “While there have been more potato sales at home, on the flip side there was the closure of restaurants and negative effect on processed products. It is good to see a relaxation of the rules and people going to restaurants and hopefully eating chips and potatoes.
“However, there is a large surplus of potatoes on the other side of the channel which could impact on the market, with some starting to come into the UK, and more may do so if our supply tightens.”
Planting is likely to be down five per cent in Great Britain this season, said Mr Porter. “It was reasonably low last year. If it does go down five per cent it will be as small a crop as in 2015. Why is less being planted? It is driven by Brexit, coronavirus and poor prices.
"People are not happy with the prices they’ve seen this season – there are alternative crops to grow which are doing quite well.”
Jersey Royal director Mike Renouard said the Jersey Royal crop is about a week behind where he would like it to be due to cold conditions this spring. “We have been harvesting potatoes in glass houses and polytunnels since February and hope to be in full swing from early May. Last year covid had an impact on retail sales in March and April – people didn’t want to queue outside supermarkets. They are not usually on people’s shopping list until they see them in store. This year there are not the same restrictions as last year.”
Scottish potato grower Hugh Black, who is a supplier for McCains said in mid-April it was too cool to plant. “The soil temperatures are only 3-4degC. They should be 6-8degC. Some of the big growers are planting but it’s agronomically crazy.”
Weather extremes are also affecting practices further on in the growing season, he says. “If dry weather continues but we still get wetted up to chit – irrigation is coming in earlier and earlier. Also we are getting such heavy rainfalls which makes it difficult to hold seven day intervals for blight.”