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Drawdown of GB potato stocks slowed throughout December and January

Publication Date: 
10 March 2017

Amber Cottingham, Analyst, amber.cottingham@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478 698

GB potato stock levels at the end of January are estimated at 1.9Mt. This is similar to the same point in the season last year and around 350Kt less than at the end of January 2015.

The latest estimate is based on AHDB survey data received by the end of February 2017; it covers grower stocks only and does not include stocks held by purchasers. When considering comparisons, it is worth being aware that the error margin for the estimate is approximately +/- 200Kt.

Evolution of stocks

Figure 1 below shows the evolution of stocks throughout the season from total production, end of November, end of January and end of March stocks. The amount of crop available this season was less than the previous season due to the lower production. Subsequently end-November stocks were also lower, at 2.9Mt. This suggests that the rate of depletion from harvest until the end of November was similar to the previous year, meaning the volume of potatoes left in grower stores was at a relatively lower level going into December (2.9Mt this year and 3.2Mt last year).

Pace of drawdown slows between end-Nov and end-Jan

The end of January stocks estimate is at a similar level to the same point last year, at 1.9Mt. Suggesting that the drawdown on stocks between the end of November 2016 and the end of January 2017 was 965Kt. This compares to a drawdown of 1,243Kt for the corresponding period last year, a significant drop of 278Kt.

There are some factors that might help to explain this unusual situation. Prices this season are at the second highest level this century, behind only 2012 and this has had an impact on some markets. Reports suggest that there has been some reluctance from growers to load at market values, as well as purchasers unwilling to raise prices, causing somewhat of a stalemate between the two. Subsequently, purchasers have reportedly had to rely more on their own stored stocks, which could account for the slower pace of drawdown over the last two months. However without knowing what remains in other stores which are not grower held, it is difficult to say exactly how much of the total crop is left to service the rest of the season.

Concluding comments

Although drawdown appears to have slowed between the end of November and January, there is still only a certain amount of stock available this season. We know overall production was at a four year low, driven by lower yields, which will likely mean some markets remain tight for the remainder of the season. Our next storage survey estimating the level of grower held stocks at the end of March will give us more insight as to how the stocks situation is developing. Look out for this in mid-May.

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