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Higher NEPG ware potato area estimated

Publication Date: 
1 July 2016

Arthur Marshall, Analyst, arthur.marshall@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478956

The latest estimates for the five North-west European Potato Growers countries (NEPG – GB, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany) shows the highest potato area in 2016 in the region since NEPG records began. Excluding seed and starch potatoes, the area is estimated around 553,000ha, almost 5% above last year. Of the five countries, Belgium is estimated to have had the largest area increase by far, up by nearly 10,000ha (12.4%) year-on-year.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands had the lowest increase in area – only 1.5%. According to the VTA (Dutch growers’ organisation), this may be related to the large (20%) increase in sugar beet area there, as well as increasing land rent prices due to dairy expansion post-quota. Due to the late planting progress in GB, an official area estimate is not yet available for comparison. However, we plan to have a figure ready for release by early- or mid-July.

Overall, the NEPG views this as in-line with demand growth from the NEPG processing industry. Export to non-EU countries, principally from Belgium and the Netherlands, has been increasing over the last five years. Nonetheless, growing conditions between July and September will be critical for final yields. It is still too early to provide an estimate of NEPG production.

 

Rain, blight and losses – but otherwise good conditions

Despite the record planted area estimate, the actual area harvested is likely to be affected by the heavy rain showers and flooding affecting the NEPG over the last few weeks. Especially on the mainland, these have locally caused serious damage to some crops. Overall, the NEPG estimates that more than 1% of the total planted area can be considered as lost. Note that this has not been factored into the area estimate above.

Belgium and the Netherlands were reportedly impacted the most from flooding with approximately 3% of the potato area lost according to FIWAP (Walloon growers’ organisation) and VTA. There are also fears that there may be quality problems in the harvest such as soft rot and green tubers. In GB and Germany, crops are estimated to have suffered less from the heavy rain showers, though conditions have still made getting onto fields difficult for some.

Across the NEPG blight pressure has been reported as high. Growers in many cases are having to spray more frequently – though many cannot spray at all due to the wet soil conditions. Nonetheless, especially in areas with less extensive rainfall, the crop is growing well despite the high blight pressure. In two to three weeks the first early processing potatoes are expected to be harvested in Germany, if the weather conditions and dry matter content allows. The Belgian early processing harvest from open fields is anticipated to follow two weeks later.

 

GB prices still stand out among firm old crop markets

Old crop markets remain firm across the NEPG, but GB prices continue to stand out as especially high. Competitively-priced imported chipping supplies have been reported in Potato Weekly for the past couple of months. Interestingly, though, fresh potato exports from the mainland NEPG countries to the UK are reported as roughly equal to or lower than last year. It seems that the relatively wide price differentials have not led to any more buyers than usual sourcing supplies from the mainland NEPG. Instead, it seems that additional supplies are coming from further afield.

In many NEPG countries, prices are reported to have stabilised in the past few weeks. Supply in all mainland countries is expected to be sufficient to cover usage for the remainder of the season; in GB, our latest stocks survey (end-Mar) suggested a similar picture. For all areas, however, the question is around the quality left available, which in some cases is reported as questionable.

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