Prices for potatoes sitting in storage could come under pressure if harvest comes early this year.
According to AHDB Potatoes, GB grower-held potato stock levels at the end of March were 1million tonnes – this is the same volume as the end of March 2016 and 300,000 tonnes less than stocks held at the end of March 2015.
The industry levy body said although stock levels were similar to last year, any repeat of the high prices in 2016 will depend on a number of factors – availability of purchasers’ own stocks, quality of stored stocks and growing conditions for the current season.
AHDB Potatoes analyst Amber Cottingham said: “2015/16 saw some very high prices paid towards the end of the season, as it became apparent that planting would be late and harvest was likely to follow suit, which extended the 2015/16 storage season.
“Conditions for ambient storage were also reportedly very poor, due to the mild winter, which meant many stocks had to be sold off earlier than anticipated to prevent loss from quality issues.”
She said planting progress was well ahead of last year, but growing conditions and weather would determine whether harvest followed suit and came early.
“If the weather is beneficial to crop growth, then there is a possibility of a normal, or even an early harvest,” added Ms Cottingham.
“When added to the prospect of an area increase this year, as we suggested in early May, prices for stocks currently in storage could be subdued later in the season.”
She said the 2016/17 season had followed a slightly unusual profile, with a relative slowing in drawdown from grower stocks between the end of November and January as a result of purchasers being discouraged by high ex-farm prices. The drawdown rate returned to typical levels between January and March this year.
“The weather over the next few weeks and into the growing season will be crucial to determine the coming harvest and what this means for industry,” added Ms Cottingham.