AHDB - UK domestic potato market update – May 2021

Demand across the UK sectors last month continued to be mixed. April saw a small pickup in bags demand, though packing and processing demand remained steady and relatively quiet.

In April, we saw the easing of government restrictions, allowing restaurants and pubs to serve food outside. We also saw self-contained holiday lets and campsites re-open for business with many reported to be “fully booked” throughout April. For the bags sector particularly, this brought a much-needed boost to demand. Though with recent cold weather dampening consumer demand, many in the industry are now looking to the 17 May in hope of a further demand boost. The key date in May will hopefully allow restaurants and pubs to serve food indoors, should the government roadmap be realised.

For many, planting progress was successful last month, and many growers have now finished. Weather continues to be mixed across different regions, with rain arriving for most but some areas remaining dry. Most regions are experiencing cold weather, continuing to bring an overnight frost and keeping soil temperatures low, slowing crop development.

At the end of March grower held potato stocks were released, stating 1.2Mt of potatoes remained in grower ownership: 22.4% of total 2020 production. This figure is only 2.6Kt more than last year’s March stocks figure but stands 90.7Kt higher than the 5-year average.

Trade overview
Free-buy
Free-buy traded tonnage has been relatively steady through April and down compared to March 2021. Over the month, the Weekly Average (price survey) free-buy price gained £4.78/t from end-March to the week ending 24 April, calculated at £152.57/t.

This price fluctuated within April, generally dependent on the inclusion of high value varieties in the sample. The price peaked at £172.97/t (non-validated), for the week ending 17 April.

Contract
Last month, a high proportion of trade continued to be fulfilled on contract. The overall average price (combined contract and free-buy) in WAPS increased by £7.58/t from weekend 27 March to 24 April, calculated at £185.08/t.

The inclusion of high value, sought after varieties in samples led to increased prices in April. The overall WAPS price reached the highest point since July 2020 (£189.88/t for the week ending 10 April), though has since fallen back slightly.

Sector overview
Packing
Demand continued to be fulfilled mostly on contract through April, with free-buy demand relatively lacklustre. Unlike other sectors, packing prices did not benefit much from the reopening of restaurants and pubs for outdoor dining. The average (median) free-buy Whites price, reported for Potato Weekly, dipped slightly over the month. For week ending 30 April, English Whites were £93/t, and Scottish Whites were £45/t. Supply of Whites is considered plentiful, putting pressure on prices.

Maris Piper continues to hold a firm premium over Whites. Driven by tight supply and high demand, free-buy English Maris Piper was quoted £300/t (median) in 30 April’s edition of Potato Weekly.

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