Potato prices drop at last as hot July weather boosts crop

Despite a slow start, excellent July weather helped crops progress well

The wholesale price of potatoes in the UK has fallen 38% since June, after favourable weather in July prompted a sharp upturn in supply as this year’s main potato season kicked off.

In August, the price of potatoes fell to £175/tonne, down 11% year-on-year. “As the 2013 harvest began, stocks were largely depleted after adverse weather conditions last year damaged crops and resulted in very limited supply,” said Mintec analyst Abigail Green. “This caused prices to rise to record high levels in June 2013.”

Although this year’s harvest was delayed because of the wet weather earlier in the year, the crop progressed well thanks to excellent July weather, and the main harvest began at the end of July, boosting supply in the UK and Continental Europe.

There is no stopping Sri Lankan tea prices at the moment, which have risen by 27.4% over the past month and are now 8.9% up on this time last year, thanks to strong demand. Plastics prices are also on the boil, with HDPE up 19.7% year on year, and LDPE up 22%.

Meanwhile, oats prices are experiencing a sharp downward correction. Roughly 45% of the UK’s oats harvest has now been completed, and yields are reported to be slightly above average, helping bring down prices. Furthermore, EU oats production for 2013/14 is expected to rise by 2% year on year, to 8.06 million tonnes.

As a result, oats prices in the UK are down by 33.8% year on year and down 16.1% month on month, to £124.5/tonne.

News of lower prices comes as the European crop is expected to be considerably larger than last year when wet weather wreaked havoc on harvests.

The North-Western European Potato Growers group estimates that total planted area across the UK, The Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium, stands at 530,000 hectares, a 3.8% increase on last year’s cover. As a result, it forecasts a 24 million-tonne harvest, up almost 10% on last year’s crop.

This year’s strong harvest comes in dramatic contrast to last year, when the poor weather caused production to fall in the five major producing countries and led to sharp increases in retail prices - some lines rose 21.6% year on year.

In the UK, approximately 75% of all produce was imported in 2012/2013, compared with 25% in 2011/2012 and 2010/2011.

On potatoes, HMRC figures show that between June 2012 and May 2013, total UK imports rose 31%, to 2.2 million tonnes, on the same period in 2011/2012. Exports also rose, but by a marginal 1%, to 451,000 tonnes. Levels were, however, down on the 2010/2011 crop by 21%.