The total consumption potato harvest in four of the five important potato-producing countries in the EU is estimated to be at least 20% lower than last year. It is expected to come to well below 20 million tons gross. This estimate was made by the Association of North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG).
This estimate is only based on harvests on continental Europe. End results for Great Britain will be available at the end of the year. This delay in results is because the harvest is still ongoing there. There is a considerable variation in irrigated and non-irrigated fields in all four main potato countries which have been included in the estimate. This variation is also the case with varieties and locations.
Test grubbings showed yields of between 18 and 80 tons per ha. The average return in the four countries is the lowest it has been in many years. It is 13,1% lower than the five-year average. The acreage used in the five leading potato-growing countries increased by one percent this year. It now stands at 595.587 hectares.
In Belgium, the actual estimate is 38,1 tons per ha. This volume indicates a drop of 29% compared to last season. It is also 24% less than the five-year average. Not only is the Bintje variety performing worse but also the more common processing varieties. It is important to note that no more than 3% of the total Belgian potato acreage is irrigated. The other potato-producing countries are reporting 14 to 20% lower yields.
Not only is the total volume lower, but the spuds are also smaller. The most significant problem with quality this year is secondary growth. This has resulted in low dry-matter content, floaters, glassiness, and glassy heads. These issues mainly affect the Bintje variety. Other important fry and consumption varieties are, however, also experiencing similar problems. Here, though, it is to a lesser extent.
These issues with quality cause major problems for farmers, traders, and processors. They make for extra costs for sorting, washing, salting out, and so on. The quality problems also result in higher tare weights and lower processing yields. This is why the NEPG estimates the final total net yields of potatoes suitable for processing and the fresh consumer market might be extremely low. It could be the lowest it has been in ten years.
The demand for potatoes from the processing industry has increased by 15% since 2012. It is, therefore, a given that the current and expected free market prices will remain high. The NEPG will publish the final yield figures at the end of the year. These will include those from Great Britain.
Initial indications of contract prices for early varieties in next year's season predict there will be a substantial increase. There are a lot of questions surrounding whether there will be sufficient availability of seed potatoes. There are also more restrictions being placed on the use of pesticides. This restriction leads to higher costs and increased risk for the grower.