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End-March 2018 GB potato stocks estimate

Publication Date: 
27 April 2018

Amber Cottingham, Analyst,, 024 7647 8698

GB grower held potato stock levels at the end of March are estimated at 1.3Mt. This is a similar level to the end of March 2015 and approximately 300Kt more than the end of March 2017 estimate.

The latest estimate is based on AHDB survey data that covers grower’s stocks only and does not include stocks held by purchasers.

Movement out of grower held stores

Figure 1 below looks at how the potatoes produced this season have moved out of grower held stores compared to previous seasons. Unsurprisingly, due to the high level of production this season, we have seen stocks levels at the end of November, end of January and now at the end of March higher than the last couple of years.

This higher level of production has been apparent in the pricing this season, with weekly average free-buy prices significantly down on last season.

Depletion rate vs previous seasons

Figure 2 below looks at the rate of depletion throughout the season and compares this to previous years.

So far this season, around 4.7 million tonnes has been either sold off the field or moved out of grower held stores since harvest. This is the highest level of movement recorded throughout this period since the 2011/12 season. Figure 2 illustrates that this season has tracked closely to the 2014/15 until this latest period (Jan to March) when movement out of grower held stores increased. Growers weighing up the cost of continued storage versus possible improved returns later in the season could be one explanation for this increase. Reports this season suggest that due to the low prices, growers with lesser quality stocks have been more inclined to dispose of them rather than holding on. As is well documented, the 2017 harvest conditions caused quality concerns for many crops and so a higher percentage of lower quality stocks, compared to previous years, is probable.

Upcoming market dynamics

In complete contrast to 2017’s planting, where quicker than average progress and a very dry, warm April was recorded, the 2018 planting season to date has been consistently hindered by wet and cold weather for much of the UK. At this point in the season we would usually expect to have around 60% of the crop in the ground, but this year there are growers who would typically aim for the early market who are still planting. Keep an eye on Potato Weekly in the coming weeks for more information on planting progress and analysis of how the late progress may affect other dynamics further into the 2018 season.

Concluding comments

We continue to see a higher level of stocks held in growers’ stores than in recent seasons, driven by the high level of production. However, as poor quality supplies are disposed of, or moved to other markets, the rate of depletion has increased since the end of January. Couple this with the delayed planting progress and the possibility of an extended 2017/18 marketing season becomes more likely. If this was the case, this would allow time to utilise much of this season’s over supply before new season crops are ready.


For more information, including regional breakdown visit our new potato data centre, available here.

For more information on storage, please see AHDB’s Storage Bulletin, available here.

For direct comparison the error margin is +/- 7.9%, approximately 105Kt. AHDB estimates are subject to revision when appropriate.

AHDB Potatoes Market Intelligence aims to provide independent, accurate and transparent market intelligence. We offer the means for growers and purchasers of potatoes to make informed decisions, identify opportunities and develop their businesses.

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