Potatoes in hand

The planted area of British potatoes has risen slightly in the past year, but it remains one of the lowest on record.

New figures from AHDB show the total planted area in Britain to be 118,950ha, which represents a one per cent increase on the year before and covers 90 per cent of producers.

However despite the rise this year still represents one of the lowest ever, with much of the increase coming from small growers increasing their area, in part on the back of a high-priced 2018.

The top 10 most widely grown varieties account for over 40 per cent of the overall British area planted to potatoes, as it did last year, according to AHDB.

Although the top-three most grown varieties have held their positions, there have been some interesting changes. Maris Piper has bucked its general downward trend, showing an increase of 6.5 per cent from 2018 plantings. Piper accounts for 13.5 per cent of the planted potato area this year at 16,100ha.

There has also been a shift in the amount of Piper grown on contract for retail compared to free-buy, up 27 per cent compared to last year and up 43 per cent compared to the four-year average of 2015-2018.

In contrast, Maris Peer, despite retaining third position, has fallen year on year. This brings the total British area planted to Maris Peer to the lowest level since 2010.

AHDB pointed to reports that demand for salad potatoes has been dropping slightly, which could be part of the driver. Also Maris Peer is being replaced by newer varieties like Jazzy and Jelly, both experiencing over 20 per cent increase in planted area.

Lady Rosetta just scraped into the top 10 varieties list but has fallen 21.5 per cent compared to last year, dropping it to tenth place at 3,000ha as other varieties increase in popularity. Lady Rosetta has been overtaken by Taurus as the most widely grown crisping variety at 3,300ha.

Taurus has become a popular crisping variety due to its tolerance to PCN and decent storability. Although much lower down the list, VR808 has also seen a large year-on-year increase in area, the largest of all (as a percentage) at 59 per cent.

Retail market remains most popular

Most sectors have seen some growth in planted area compared to last year. The area of potatoes grown for the retail market remains the largest and has grown by 1,600ha year on year, and 1,800ha against the five-year average. The increase has been driven by a higher proportion grown on contract for the pre-pack market.

Although still the second-largest sector, potatoes grown for the processing sector has fallen slightly this year at an estimated 36,100ha, down one per cent from last year’s area. This is driven mostly by a drop in the planted area of potatoes destined for the crisping sector, rather than French fries.

The area planted with potatoes for the fresh chipping sector has been following a generally downwards trend since 2010, although some years have seen a slight uptick year on year. This is the case this year, with a three per cent rise in area at 13,400ha, compared to last year.