Potato growers and suppliers are facing tighter supplies of potatoes and a big hike in prices in the wake of the recent poor weather.
The spot, or wholesale price, of potatoes was “currently at least double what you would expect at this time of year and looks like it’s going one way”, said Tim O’Malley, group MD of Nationwide Produce.
Following devastating floods across the UK over the past few weeks, “plantings on spuds were already down by around 10%”, he added following the recent ”dreadful growing season”.
“On top of this we now have around 15% to 20% still in the ground,” he added. “Some of this, which has sat in water too long, won’t be lifted. And the rest that is lifted will be of poorer quality.”
He added that similar problems were also reported in other major potato growing areas on the Continent, including Belgium, France, the Netherlands and north Germany.
This was contributing to soaring prices for the crop at wholesale, with prices on retailer shelves up by as much as 100% on last year’s levels, research by The Grocer found last month.
O’Malley said potatoes had been the worst impacted by the flooding, however other crops had also been affected including brassicas and carrots.
Another industry insider warned winter vegetables and early spring crops were in “jeopardy” with growers also facing increased costs in planting and replacing damaged harvests.
“My father is a Lancashire farmer and he used to say prepare for a major weather issue around once every seven years,” said O’Malley. “We seem to get several every year nowadays.
“When you add to this all the other challenges UK growers are facing, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more production of veg being driven abroad,” he added.
This comes following warnings from British Growers Association CEO Jack Ward last month that potato production has dropped by nearly a million tonnes in a year – equating to around 20% of total potato output, according to government data – because growers have “just said ‘we’re not doing it’”, Ward said.