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Maincrop imports increasing as domestic supply tightens

Publication Date: 
17 June 2016

Sara Maslowski, Senior Analyst, sara.maslowski@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478953

Latest data from HMR&C shows to just what extent the UK potato market is utilising maincrop imports to supplement homegrown supplies. Maincrop (fresh) imports in April 2016 were at 19,470 tonnes, or 21% of total UK potato imports, the highest level (excepting 2012/13) since at least 2010. This comes as no surprise considering the tighter supply situation for the 2015/16 season, as well as reports earlier this year of growers reluctant to open stores in anticipation of price increases.

Figure 1 below, shows imports of maincrop potatoes to the UK for the period January to April for the past seven years. There is a clear trend this year of maincrop imports increasing sharply from January when the market was relatively well supplied with homegrown produce, to April, where stocks were becoming short.

Back in April we reported that purchasers were looking further afield for their supplies. The HMRC data certainly suggests this. While at the start of 2016, the majority of maincrop (fresh) imports were coming from France and Belgium, in March and April purchasers were also sourcing supplies from Israel and Spain. In April 2016, a fifth of maincrop imports came from Israel whereas prior to this, according to HMRC, the UK hadn’t imported any maincrop potatoes from Israel during the month of April, since 2011.

With stocks on mainland Europe tight, UK purchasers will need to continue to look further afield for supplies until the domestic crop is ready for harvest. While still too early to say for sure, crop planting was reported to be up to two weeks behind typical progress putting pressure on UK purchasers, reliant on imports for longer.

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