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Crop Update

Posted on 28/06/2018

In last newsletter I advised that the EU-5 2018 acreage was expected to shrink by around 2% - 3%, in response to the extreme high potato production in 2017 and resulting low daily prices. The 3% shrink would give an acreage of 565.975 ha. and an EU-5 production of 26,7 mio tons, based on an average yield of 47,2 tons/ha.

On 3rd May the North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) published their estimated EU-5 figures for the 2018 crop and instead of the predicted 3% shrink, the acreage is actually expected to expand by 0.4% to 585.606 ha. This will provide an estimated yield of 48,1 tons/ ha and the NEPG predicts the 2018 EU-5 production will produce 28,1 mio tons of potatoes.

Following a year with a record high production and very low daily rates, an acreage expansion may have seemed unlikely, but this development has come about due to the lack of alternatives available to farmers. Prices of alternative crops such as cereals are low, onion exports have been weak and sugar beet prices are down since the abolition of the sugar quotation in 2017.

The recent capacity expansion of the European potato processing industry and the assumption that a record high yield of 52,1 tons per ha. was not likely to repeat itself within two consecutive years, have driven farmers not to decrease, but slightly increase their potato acreage.

Over the last ten years, the lowest average yield has been 44,0 tons (2012) and the highest yield was 52,1 tons (2017) per ha. Multiplying the estimated NEPG acreage of 585.608 ha. with these two possible yields per ha, the 2018 EU-5 production will be somewhere between 25,7 and 30,5 mio tons.

25,7 mio tons will not be enough to meet the demand whilst 30,5 mio tons will be far too much. Taking 47,2 tons per ha. as the average over the ten years would gives us an estimated acreage of 585.608 ha, and put the 2018 EU-5 production at 27,6 mio tons of potatoes. If this average is correct, it may provide the balance between supply and demand.

Looking at the current situation we are seeing a delayed transition in the processing of new crop potatoes. This is due to the cold and wet spring which has slowed the planting and development of an early crop. The available volume of old crop potatoes is not currently causing any problems, but the question is whether the quality of the old crop will enable a delayed transition.

Unusually high temperatures during May have not helped the quality of the potatoes in store. The weather conditions in the coming weeks will determine the quality of the old crop in store and the speed of ripening of the new crop.
 
Test harvestings over the years have shown that the yield per ha. and even the quality of the potatoes is mainly determined by the weather conditions during the last few weeks before harvesting.

Estimated yield- and production figures are a handy way to visualise the possible outcomes. For more news, final and reliable figures, stay tuned for our next crop update in September.

Jan Willem Peters
Aviko Potato