Retailer price problems might lead to cutbacks on UK potato and veg production

UK retail pricing strategies for potatoes and vegetables are putting the acreage in danger, growers and co-ops claim. Many British growers look like breaking even at best on the 2022 crop at contract prices agreed before the Russia-Ukraine war, while free-buy old-crop packing material is worth just £60-£100/t in many  areas.

Plans for 2023 are being made, including decisions on cropping licences. With November 2023 wheat futures at £240/t and high malting barley premiums, many growers are expected to switch acreage into cereals or cut back their potato commitment.

Mike Shapland, farms manager at James Foskett Farms in Suffolk, has 370ha of potatoes and 135ha of onions in the ground, as well as 160ha of organic vegetables. “Price negotiations on potatoes generally take place between November and February, so for the 2022 crop those were before the war, and we’ve seen really significant increases in fuel costs since then.”

He said hefty growing cost increases were making decisions about the 2023 crop difficult. “I’m trying to finalize 2023 commitments to [rented] land and it looks as if I’ll be signing up to lose money in some situations."


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