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Fresh potato exports at record pace in February

Publication Date: 
3 May 2019

Peter Collier, Analyst, Peter.Collier@AHDB.org.uk, 0247 647 8851
Aidan Wright, Analyst, Aidan.Wright@AHDB.org.uk, 0247 647 8894

At 17.4Kt exports of fresh potatoes in February hit a recent record pace1. This is 486t higher than the previous record February exports (2017 crop), and over 10Kt higher than for the 2012 crop.

Owing to reduced yields across continental Europe, there has been an increased demand for fresh potato exports for the frying, table and processing market. Although 2018/19 has also a tighter year for domestic supply, GB free-buy potatoes have been pricing below that of continental supplies, allowing export competitiveness.

February data backs up the reported increase in exports of packing supplies and frying tops highlighted in Potato Weekly. While fresh exports post October tend to fall away, talk with trade suggests demand has continued to remain strong.

March exports may well have continued at an elevated pace, with strong demand, especially at the beginning of the month. However, later in March Brexit uncertainty and logistics caused disruption, before shifting Brexit timescales eased pressure on exporters.

In recent months, domestic trade in free-buy packing supplies has been limited with pack houses meeting demand with contracted volumes. This appears particularly apparent in Scotland with significant volumes of competitively priced packing material moving both into England and to mainland Europe.

The lacklustre free-buy packing trade suggests confidence that domestic demand can continue to be met via contracted volumes. Yet the potential of elevated levels of exports to Europe could reduce stocks towards the end of the season, increasing dependence on the timely arrival of the early crop.

Equally any resultant reduction in stocks could exacerbate potential issues in the coming season. This season packers were able to offset low production by using significant volumes of old crop well past the normal end of the season. While it is still early days, water availability and irrigation remain a concern for growers across GB. However, conditions are currently good, and early lifting should be on schedule .

Unlike last season if another weather event occurs, the impact could be more significant with limited stocks to help mitigate shortfalls in supply.

For the latest prices, market commentary and crop reports, subscribe to Potato Weekly by emailing Potatoes.MI@ahdb.org.uk

1 Since reported trade threshold levels changed in 2012. Email Peter.Collier@ahdb.org.uk for further details.

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