Potato prices could recover from multi-year lows following setbacks to sowing after a long and harsh UK winter.
One of the biggest UK packing firms, Produce Investments, which supplies major supermarkets, said there was a potential drop in sowings this year with lower demand for seed potatoes.
“Sales of seed potatoes were slower during the [July to December] period than in the prior year as the impact of a temporarily oversupplied marketplace reduced growers’ appetite for investment in the next year’s crop,” said a spokesman.
The winter also impacted the sowings farmers did intend to make.
It comes after AHDB revealed UK potato stock levels held by growers were the largest end-January stock figure since 2010, at an estimated 2.4million tonnes.
In Cornwall, early potato plantings were ‘severely delayed’ by very wet conditions in early 2018. On Jersey, planting of Jersey Royal potatoes was ‘significantly behind plan’.
The Produce Investments spokesman added: “The development of the crop that has already been planted has also been slowed by the unfavourable weather, which has continued into March.”
Meanwhile, sowing of the main UK crop has only just started and ‘all indications are that spring will run later this season with progress delayed versus recent seasons’.
The impact of this was likely to be an extension of the current season with a late harvest this year extending demand for last year’s crop.
Produce Investments said this ‘may lead to an increase in crop values over time’.
It follows prices of free-buy potatoes dropping as low as £77.29/tonne, a drop of 68 per cent year-on-year.
Produce Investments reported a half-year profit of £1.76million, up from a loss of £996,000 the year before.
Revenues rose by 1.6 per cent to £80.6m, despite weaker potato values, due to a boost to volumes from new contract wins.
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