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GB potato plantings estimated down 3%

Publication Date: 
2 August 2018

Sara Maslowski, Senior Analyst,, 02476 478953

The first estimate of total potato plantings for the 2018 crop year in Great Britain from AHDB is 119,000ha*. This is a fall of 3% on the final 2017 planting figure of 123,000ha and the third-lowest planted area on record.

This initial estimate is provisional, based on a sample covering 60% of producers by area. As with all estimates based on a sample, results should be treated with caution. Despite every effort being made to make the sample representative, the planting decisions made by those not included in the sample may differ from those who are included.

Typically following a year of low prices, as seen in 2017, we would expect the area planted to potatoes to reduce. However, this has likely been exacerbated further by a delay in planting.

The 2018 season so far has been characterised by weather extremes. The ‘Beast from the East’ brought us snow in spring which led to very difficult planting conditions, with delays reported of up to 2-4 weeks on planned progress. Then, while initially welcomed, prolonged warm, dry weather has affected maincrop development. Even those with irrigation systems have reported to be struggling. As well as concerns about the impact on yields, the dry weather is said to be causing increased disease pressure in addition to skin finish and dry matter concerns.

So with a lower forecast area, exactly how much has the drought conditions affected yields?

While we won’t know for sure until maincrop lifting is in full swing, we can get an indication from irrigation statistics and produce potential yield scenarios.

In Potato Weekly last week, we reported that just under half of the crop area has the ability to irrigate, according to AHDB Planting Returns. However, this does not mean that all of this area is using irrigation systems. Users of Potato Data Centre can take a closer look at irrigation by sector and region.

From early reports, we know that yields are anticipated to be down, the extent to which they are down however remains to be seen. With this in mind we have produced a range of yield/ production scenarios. The scenarios use the five year average yield, and the five year average less 1%, 5% and 10%.

Based on the estimated area of 119,000ha we can produce a range of production scenarios ranging from 5.1Mt (16% less than in 2017) to 5.7Mt (6% less than in 2017). A breakdown of the production scenarios can be seen in the table below.

With the potential for a low supply year ahead, markets are reacting with 2018 crop prices edging higher.  However, 2017/18 was not a usual season and with such a large supply, prices have not followed a typical end of season rally, and we’re entering the new season from a pretty low base. It is also worth noting that, with an extended 2017/18 season, there is potential for a much shorter 2018/19 season than would have been expected. This would help to alleviate some supply pressure.

Looking ahead, there is likely to be more marked differences by market sector than would be seen typically.  For example, some in the packing market are still utilising old crop supplies, while frying and chipping are more reliant on the new crop and the impact here has potential to be greater.


*Statistical 95% confidence limits for the estimate are ± 1.2%, which means that the final figure for 2018 could lie anywhere in the range from 117,628 to 120,372 ha.


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