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GB potato production up 15%, at 6.04Mt, as yields rise

Publication Date: 
22 December 2017

Amber Cottingham, Acting Senior Analyst,, 02476 478698

Earlier this month, we released the first provisional estimate of total production in Great Britain for the 2017 crop, showing production up 15.2% [i] on the year at 6.04Mt, the highest level since 2011. The early 2017 area estimate of 120,897ha has been revised up to 122,779ha, based on 98% of planting returns received, compared with 60% for the June estimate. The estimated average net yield for 2017 is 49.3t/ha. This is up 9.6% on the previous year. In today’s article, we look at the potential impact of production on prices and production by sector and region.

Effect on price

The 2017 level of production is similar to 2011 and 2009, at just over 6 million tonnes.

Figure one shows that the annual free-buy average prices achieved, in years when production hit the 6 million tonne mark, were all below £100/t. Although we are only just over three months into the 2017 season, the year to date free-buy average price has already dropped to less than £100/t.  

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Production by sector and region

Due to the overall rise in production, potato availability in all sectors and regions has increased this season. Figure two looks at production by sector.

The largest absolute increase in production this season has come from the pre-pack sector, up more than 300Kt (15.6%) year on year. Both the planted area and the yields for this sector increased on the year earlier, with the planted area up almost 4,000ha and yields in excess of 49t/ha. A more surprising production increase this season has come from the processing sector, which actually saw a small decrease in planted area. Despite this, an approximate yield increase of almost 5t/ha from 45.2t/ha in 2016 to 50.1t/ha this season, as a consequence of growers switching to higher yielding varieties, has seen production for this sector rise by more than 200,000 tonnes.

The seed sector saw a slight uplift in area planted this season, with production rising by around 4.0% on the previous year. Both the fresh bags and fresh chipping sectors have seen increases in production of 26.8% and 18.5% respectively.

When looking at production by region, we have compared this season to the last time production hit the 6 million tonne mark (2011), as well as the previous season.

There has been a shift in the last six years in where potatoes are grown, and the national crop has continued to consolidate into the biggest producing regions. Figure three shows that the West Midlands region is producing significantly less (-13.5%) this season than it did back in 2011. Conversely, the Yorkshire and Humber region is producing 13.4% more in 2017/18.

In conclusion

It is clear that there is a much larger crop this season and if previous seasons tell us anything in terms of price, it is that years with higher production tend to have lower average prices. However, there is still a long way to go to the end of the season and there have already been reports of crop losses from stores, especially in areas where potatoes were harvested wet. Keep an eye on Potato Weekly for more analysis and storage updates throughout this season.

Please click here to visit our new Potato Data Centre for more detail.


i. Note the finalised production figure for 2016 is now 5.24Mt, compared to the original estimate of 5.22Mt. This increase is based on a 0.5% revision of the area estimate for 2016 from 116,225ha to 116,827ha. The estimated average net yield for 2016 was 45t/ha.

ii. Total Production is the total harvested volume of the GB crop measured in metric tonnes. It excludes field leavings and material graded out prior to storage or sale.

iii. The statistical confidence interval for yield is ±2.57%, indicating that there is a 95% probability that, based on this sample, the GB total production figure is within the range 5.89 to 6.20 million tonnes.

iv. Potato yields are net of crop losses and on-farm grading waste. Yields are estimated from the Grower Panel, which is a stratified random sample of 500 crops from growers. For this report, data from a sub-sample of 403 crops was available.

v. This area estimate includes all potato planting in GB and is made up of both AHDB registered and unregistered area. It is based on a sample of 98% of registered growers. The area estimate has confidence limits of +/- 0.2%. The figure for 2016 has also been updated slightly to 116,800ha, following inclusion of additional data from growers.

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