Potato Weekly - 20 March 2020

Panic buying has boosted retail demand for fresh potatoes and frozen products

Panic buying linked to the coronavirus has boosted retail demand for fresh potatoes and frozen products this week. Meanwhile, sales into foodservice have dried up as the public moves away from restaurants and public spaces.

There have been some reporting issues with availability of haulage this week, due to packed schedules to restock supermarket shelves. As the outbreak develops, there are some concerns over staff shortages for both hauliers and packers/processors, as an increasing number of the population self-isolate according to the AHDB Potato Weekly

Early planting has continued slowly, with rainfall at the start of the week halting progress again for many.

Market commentary
Retail sales for fresh potatoes have increased significantly, as widespread panic buying sees the public stock up on staple foods. As a result, there has been a large increase in free-buy demand for packing potatoes, for both best and lower quality stocks, to help meet this demand. Anecdotally, we are told that some packhouses have pulled forward contracts to help mitigate some of this pressure.
Prices have remained firm in the chipping market this week. Trade this week has been reported as average for most. Moving forward demand is expected to fall significantly as the coronavirus outbreak develops. There have been some reports of chip shops already cancelling orders for next week.

Sales of bagged ware have jumped massively, with some growers moving over ten times their normal volumes this week. With supermarket shelves being cleared quickly during the day, many of the public have been turning to smaller shops and the farm gate. We have seen some growers selling chipping stock in this way to help meet public demand.

Demand for peeling material into foodservice has decreased considerably this week. Restaurant traffic has seen massive declines, as increasing volumes of people avoid public spaces. With all UK schools to be closed from today, we are likely to see a further fall in peeling demand over the next few weeks.

Similarly for frozen products, foodservice demand has fallen. However, retail sales have increased on the back of large-scale panic buying as consumers stock up freezers in case they need to self-isolate.

The logistical disruptions have begun to impact production of processed products and ready meals, with some unable to source haulage to get an adequate supply of raw materials to the factories. There is also a concern that staff shortages may occur as larger numbers of people have to self-isolate.

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