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GB set for a stable potato area

Publication Date: 
21 June 2019

Sara Maslowski, Senior Analyst,, 02476 478 953

AHDB’s first estimate of total GB potato plantings for the 2019 crop year is 118Kha*, one of the lowest on record. Since publication in October, the 2018 estimate has now been updated to 118Kha**.

Typically a high priced year triggers an increase in planted area, incentivising expanded plantings. Yet, 2019 plantings have not followed typical trends. Last year was exceptional and the difficult growing conditions affected all markets including seed. As a result seed availability was reduced and prices were high. It is also often the case that if planting finishes earlier than planned, then we’d expect to see an increase in plantings. But, again with a tighter seed market, we haven’t seen this trend.

2019 season so far

2019 planting went well, considerably better than the challenges growers’ faced last year. A milder than average winter and a generally warm and sunny early spring led to good planting conditions, with many growers finishing well ahead of plans. Despite early planting for many, crop development has not been as forward as expected with nights still cold. With dry conditions for most, irrigation has been necessary early on to help crop development but also to protect skin finish. More recently heavy rain has benefitted much of the crop. In some areas, such as parts of Lincolnshire, rain has caused severe flooding but this appears to be the exception. 

Crop prospects

While still early days, industry expectations for the crop are cautiously optimistic. General sentiment, based on current conditions, is for a larger supply. To give an idea what this season’s production could be, we’ve used different yield scenarios. The table below shows what production levels could look like at different yields.

If this years’ crop yield is equal to the 5 year average (46.6t/ha), based on our current area estimate, we could see production at around 5.4Mt. Or if growing conditions are optimum for the rest of the season and we see yields pushing 49t/ha, production could be around 5.8Mt. On the other hand, if conditions for the rest of the season and at harvest are particularly challenging, then production could be much lower. 

With a couple of months at least still to go until maincrop harvest, weather as always remains key. Warm, unsettled weather is forecast into July which could bring with it disease pressure. Late blight, in particular, could be a concern and red warnings have already been issued. The recent heavy rain has meant that protective blight spraying has been a challenge for some growers. AHDB’s Fight Against Blight service is available to alert growers of outbreaks and increased risk. 

Stay up to date
We will be updating our potato planted area estimate as more levy returns are submitted, and over the summer will publish area by variety, region and market sector data. Keep an eye out for these in Potato Weekly alongside our regularly weekly prices and market information round up. For more details go to the Potato Data Centre or speak to one of our team

* This initial estimate is provisional, based on a sample covering 67% 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. Statistical 95% confidence limits for the estimate are +/-3.4%, which means that the final figure for 2019 could lie anywhere in the range from 113,745 to 121,685 ha. This confidence interval is wider than normal as we have seen greater year on year variation in the plantings of individual growers. 

** A larger than normal proportion of late and updated returns were received in 2018 as a result of the challenging growing conditions. This data was not available when we updated the 2018 estimate in October. To make our estimate as accurate as possible we have included these returns in our calculations. This means that the previously reported figure of 117,343ha is now 118,099ha

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