British potato growers have planted an increased area of emerging varieties to serve the fresh packing market this season, amid reports of increased levels of ‘on-contract’ supermarket supply, where prices are agreed in advance.
The varieties which have gained the most area are fresh packing potatoes Nectar and Melody, which increased their area by 1,000ha (2,471 acres) and 700ha (1,729 acres) respectively. Both are more recent introductions to the UK market than Estima, which has decreased in area by an estimated 400ha (988 acres) this season.
However, Maris Piper remains the most planted variety with three times more area than the next most popular fresh packing variety.
AHDB Potatoes market intelligence analyst, Amber Cottingham says: “The packing market has seen another increase in area this season, with acreage intended for processing declining once more. This may be due to a reported increase in contracts offered in the packing market as retailers seek to reduce the financial fluctuations they encounter in meeting demand.
“There continue to be some changes in the top 10 list, as newer varieties designed to suit today’s needs – both at an agronomic and consumer level – continue to increase in popularity. Likewise, some of the biggest losers this year are older varieties.”
Overall the area planted that is intended to supply the fresh retail sector has increased for the second year in a row to an estimated 38 per cent of the total planted area in Great Britain, while the area planted to serve the processing sector has decreased, also for the second year running, to 29 per cent.
Ms Cottingham says: “Area changes can be closely linked to the price paid the previous season. For the packing sector, this has likely had an impact, as many prices were favourable during the 2015/16 and much of the 2016/17 season, up to the point when planting decisions would have been taking place.”