‘Scottish potato growers may be losing small fortune’

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Scottish potato growers could be missing out on up to £700 in missed margins per hectare.

That was the message from AHDB Potatoes strategy director, Rob Clayton, at the Farming Scotland Conference in Carnoustie.

He said AHDB analysis showed that the top 25% of potato producers found that improvements in seed rates and energy efficiency could be worth approximately £37,000 for the average grower.

“Farmers are not collecting this extra income for a number of reasons,” said Mr Clayton.

“Changes to seed and nitrogen rates and making simple investments to improve store performance can make a real difference to the bottom line. We need to work on supporting producers to change their practices to improve productivity and increase their yields and margins.”

Further figures from the potato sector levy body revealed that average UK potato yields in 2015 were below those experienced elsewhere in Europe.

UK average yields that year were 48.8 tonnes per hectare, while average yields in Germany, France and Belgium were more than 50 tonnes per hectare. Belgium was much higher at 56.2 tonnes per acre.

Mr Clayton said although much of the increased yields in other countries was down to environmental factors, such as soil quality and weather, there was room for UK growers to increase their yields.

He also issued a plea to industry to embrace and incorporate the changing tastes of consumers.

“Many consumers are looking for convenience, they are looking for meal time solutions rather than ingredients. Because of this we see the chilled potato sector is growing, chilled mash, or roast potatoes for example and we need to make sure we are tapping into this,” said Mr Clayton.

“Premium potato products are also important, especially as we see a global surge in the middle classes, and therefore not only do we need to produce more such products, but we need to build relationships with those growing global markets which are looking out for these premium goods.”