Helping growers adapt to climate challenges was one of the biggest focus for McCain head of agriculture Dan Metheringham
Lockdown had led to a sudden shift from a crop shortfall following weather challenges last season to a surplus for potato giant McCain, as it lost 50 per cent of sales overnight.
The last 10 years have thrown up multiple climate challenges for potato growers and McCain was looking to help create certainty for farmers and build supply chain resilience.
Daniel Metheringham, McCain head of agriculture, said: "This time last year we were sat in the midst of a crop crisis because of weather volatility.
"We were still harvesting going into 2020," he said.
"When we hit Covid-19, all of a sudden we went from a crop shortfall to a crop surplus."
Mr Metheringham said 50 per cent of sales had shut down overnight.
He highlighted the importance of relationships with farmers, with some of their growing partnerships going back 50 years.
“Without the potatoes, we do not have a business,” he said.
“Having that direct relationship, we can understand quicker what is going on at farm level.”
And when the hospitality closure hit McCain before planting they were able to speak with growers about the challenges they faced.
"We were quite fortunate it happened before planting so we were able to have those conversations, reduce contracts back by 15 per cent."
The McCain farmer pledge, an investment of £25m in the British potato industry, was focused on trying to build certainty for farmers facing weather volatility.
Farmers were spending grant money on investments such as self-propelled harvesters and irrigation.
And Mr Metheringham said for the potato industry, climate change was not something to plan for but something which was already hitting their crops.
Looking forward to 2021, Mr Metheringham said there was a huge amount of uncertainty across the whole sector outside of Covid-19.
“In the potato crop, there is the question of managing storage without CIPC,” he said.
But he said there were reasons to be positive, with sales better than expected.
He added with Brexit they were in a positive position due to their integrated British supply chain and there could be opportunities in import substitution.