• Potato Crop Update July 2013

Potato Crop Update July 2013

Posted on 04/07/2013

This spring started with the knowledge that following a very low yield from the 2012 crop both Belgium and the UK have been buying from other regions to meet demand. On top of that, across the whole of Europe the early potatoes were planted very late in March and April, due to low temperatures and wet conditions.

These factors have continued to fuel the increase in potato prices. In addition, EU potato quotations have increased week by week, resulting in a potato price in June which was 8 times higher than the average price paid during the last potato season! If you then bear in mind that it takes almost 2Kg of potatoes to produce one 1Kg of fries, you can imagine what a huge impact such high crop prices have had on potato processors and the potato products market.

The development of early potatoes is still a week or two behind, compared to 'normal' years, but for the main crop of potatoes that we hope to harvest in the course of September, there is less of a delay. The high prices of the old crop (which were mainly driven by persistently high demand to produce fries) along with the export and table potato market, have led to less fresh potato consumption. The relatively expensive European product has had difficulties competing with North American fries, where conversely the harvest was plentiful and prices for non-contracted potatoes were low.

The export figures for fresh potatoes were high in recent months, whilst the figures for processing after January were significantly lower than that of last year, due to the fierce competition from North American product. The lagging European processing volume has resulted in no further increase in demand for potatoes from the old crop, as potato processors work on a day-by-day basis, processing the purchased potatoes and only buying very little additional volume, in order to ensure they have processed all purchased volumes as soon as the new crop arrives.

Looking forward the first acreage projections in North West Europe have started to come in. There seems to be a small increase in acreage of 3% in the EU top 5, but that isn't necessarily representative of the total available volume to come. The late start to the 2013 harvest and the low temperatures for this time of year are far from positive indicators for a high yield per hectare this season. The floods in southern Germany have taken their toll and may have destroyed the small expansion of Germany's potato crop area. As for the main crop that will be harvested in September and October, at this stage it is far too early to draw any conclusions, although we will of course keep you posted via these regular potato crop updates when we know more.

Jan-Willem Peters