This has been especially true in Belgium where some processors have a short supply of potatoes available for the last few weeks of the old crop season and the available free-buy volumes across NW Europe are much lower than normal for this time of the year.
The good news is the new crop potatoes were planted in time and the favourable temperatures throughout May have resulted in a smooth start for the 2019 crop year. This means the initially feared scarcity of seed potatoes as a result of the bad yield of the 2018 crop has turned out to not be as problematic as originally thought.
So are there any challenges to consider for the 2019 crop year?
The drought situation that caused a record low potato production in the EU-5 last year has not yet been fully resolved and may continue to cause some challenges going forward. In the Netherlands the precipitation shortage is currently at 91mm and was below normal at the end of May in most growing areas, with an exception in some local areas.
However, the relatively dry situation up to now may actually be favourable, because the potato plants go in search of water and this will encourage them to form a strong root system that may be very useful in case of future dry periods. As the crops develop this is the crucial time when water is needed and without a 'natural supply', farmers may need to turn to irrigation to ensure the potato crops are receiving the nutrients they need.
Last week's extreme high temperatures without any precipitation have brought a 'turnaround' in the situation for now; the April futures, that quoted €12.60 on Monday June 17, closed at €17.90 on Wednesday 26th June. This once again shows the sensitivity of the market to weather changes during the growing season.
The acreage figures of the EU-5 show an increase of 2.4%, compared against last year with a preliminary area figure for the crop year 2019 estimated at 609,000 ha.
With a ten year average yield of 46.6 tons per ha., this will result in an EU-5 production of 28.4 mio tons. With yields between 40 tons and 52 tons per ha. over the last ten years, EU-5 production figures based on 609,000 ha. may be expected between 24.4 and 31.7 mio tons. That means, somewhere between too little and too much - only time will be able to tell us more.
Conclusion for now is what you can read at the end of the subtitles of every episode of an exciting series on TV: to be continued!
Jan Willem Peters