British grower-held potato stocks are keeping pace with last season, with around 1 million tonnes available at the end of March, according to an AHDB estimate.
This volume is roughly the same as that from the end of March 2016 and around 300,000t less than at the same point the year before.
Despite the similarity in stock levels, any repeat of the high prices seen in 2016 will depend on a number of factors, including the availability of purchasers’ own stocks, the quality of stored stocks, and growing conditions for the current season.
Amber Cottingham, an analyst at AHDB Potatoes, said: “2015/16 saw some very high prices paid towards the end of the season as it became apparent that planting would be late and harvest was likely to follow suit, which extended the 2015/16 storage season.
“Conditions for ambient storage were also reportedly very poor due to the mild winter, which meant many stocks had to be sold off earlier than anticipated to prevent loss from quality issues.”
Planting progress is well ahead of last year, according to the AHDB, however growing conditions will ultimately determine the success of the harvest
Cottingham said: “If the weather is beneficial to crop growth, then there is a possibility of a normal, or even an early harvest. When added to the prospect of an area increase this year, as we suggested in early May, prices for stocks currently in storage could be subdued later in the season.”
AHDB’s potato stock estimates are based on survey data that includes growers’ stocks only and not those held by purchasers.
The 2016/17 season has followed a slightly unusual profile, with drawdown from growers stocks slowing between the end of November and January. This was caused by high ex-farm prices which discouraged purchases. The rate of drawdown returned to typical levels from January to March of this year.
The AHDB will be reporting on how the weather and other factors are affecting the coming harvest and what this means for the potato industry in its Potato Weekly newsletter.