With lifting nearing completion, it is becoming clear the 2017 potato crop is going to be a big one – high yields have not only put pressure on prices, but are forcing some growers to resort to alternative storage units where crop volumes have exceeded current store capacity.
Depressed potato prices are tempting some growers to store crops in the hope of a price increase in the New Year. But with a high volume of potatoes, there is a question mark over whether some farmers will have enough storage capacity.
Although temporary storage facilities are a potential option, with new chlorpropham (CIPC) regulations stating the need for active recirculation to ensure the sprout suppressant can be applied at lower dose rates, there is concern the number of temporary storage facilities which meet current legislation may be limited.
Adrian Cunnington, head of Sutton Bridge crop storage research, says: “Market conditions are such that growers are not enthusiastic about selling at the moment because there are more potatoes available than the market wants, which means prices are depressed and so people are looking to hold onto the crop for a month or two to try and get a better return later on.
“Some growers are having to look at using older stores – the question is whether these buildings have been adequately converted to cope with the new CIPC regulations. I suspect it will be a case of some have and some have not.
“There will not be any flexibility in terms of being able to treat stores if they do not comply with the new regulations. If growers have a store without active recirculation, they will not be allowed to treat crops with CIPC.”
Growers which have sought additional storage from neighbours or former producers are advised to discuss crop ownership and responsibility for compliance in advance of CIPC application as National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) applicators will not be able to resolve these issues on the day of treatment, according to AHDB.
Aside from concerns around CIPC application, most potato crops seem to be going into stores in good health, according to Mr Cunnington.“Crops are reasonably sound going into store with only one or two minor exceptions – growers in Scotland have had some persistent wet weather so their harvest season is still ongoing and it is unclear what the quality of their crops will be like – but most growers in England and Wales have had a reasonable lifting season.
“We have had some reasonably cool nights so we have managed to get temperatures down but we are also getting some very mild daytime temperatures. The advice is not to ventilate with warm air onto cold potatoes, because that tends to create condensation.”
Yorkshire grower Mark Hope, who has seen a 12 per cent rise in potato yields on the year, says: “Quality-wise, we have had a few cases of rot in the odd crop, but nothing major – generally potato crops are pretty clean this year. However, temperatures have been on the milder side so it has taken longer to reduce temperatures in store. But we are still hopeful in-store losses will be minimal.”