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NEPG first area estimate anticipates 3.6% increase

Publication Date: 
21 April 2017

Amber Cottingham, Analyst, amber.cottingham@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478698

The first potato area estimate from the North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) region suggests a possible increase of 3.6% compared with last season. This growth in area, although reasonably large, has reportedly been restricted due to a lack of certified seed available on the continent. Earlier expectations suggested growth in the area would have been much larger in order to fulfil the continuously expanding requirements of the European processing industry. However, the poor yielding crop of the 2016 season has forestalled this by causing a shortage in seed availability across much of Europe. The total planted area is estimated to be approximately 572,000ha (excluding potatoes for seed and starch), which would make it the highest area for the last ten years, if achieved.

 

It is important to note is that the GB proportion of the 2017 area estimate is based on an historical average. The NEPG area estimate is therefore likely to change as more information becomes available.

Outlook for NEPG production potential

Although the planted area could increase substantially this year, this does not guarantee ten-year high output. There is still much of the season to come and as the graph above shows, yields are very variable, driven mainly by weather, a factor that cannot be predicted.

In order to foresee potential production possibilities for the NEPG region, we have calculated the following output scenarios. In this analysis we have used the current area estimate (572,000ha), coupled with various yield possibilities based on historical trends.

Our analysis suggests that if the current area estimate is realised, production is likely to increase across the NEPG area, even if the yields achieved are similar to the lows of 2012, which was an usually low yielding year. However, with a possible range of between 25 million tonnes and almost 30 million tonnes, there is still considerable uncertainty around how the season will likely play out.  

Stock low across the region

Most NEPG countries have indicated that stocks are low, especially for free-buy potatoes. With processing levels currently high and around three months still to go before the first early processing varieties would typically be available, this could keep prices firm. Several NEPG countries will soon publish updated stocks figures based on grower surveys, including the AHDB end-March stocks figure, which will give a better picture of the stocks held in grower’s stores across the region.

Planting progressing well

Planting is progressing well for all of the NEPG countries with many having ‘ideal’ conditions. Progress is reported to be ahead of average. However, all countries are reporting dry soils, which could delay crop development.

  • Belgian growers have made good progress with planting with more than 80% of the intended earlies area planted and over 10% of the maincrop also planted.
  • In France, planting conditions are reported as being very good, allowing good progress but again soils are reported as being dry.
  • In Germany, planting is at least a week earlier than normal for most, due to the good weather and soil conditions. This has allowed 100% of the early potatoes area to be planted already and more than 10% of the maincrop area completed.
  • So far, in the Netherlands, all early processing varieties have been planted and growers are now planting the main crop.
  • The situation is similar in GB, with approximately 50,000ha planted to 15 April. The current estimate is up by around 27,000ha on the same week in 2016 (c.23,000ha, 20% planted) and approximately 9,000ha up on the same point in 2015 (c.41,000ha, 36% planted).

Although an earlier planting season could mean an earlier harvest, which may alleviate price pressure at the end of this season; this may also open up the possibility of an extended 2017/18 season. This may then have implications on prices in the future.

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