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Potato harvest continually delayed by wet weather

"UK: "Potentially disastrous situation"

Harvesting conditions in Great Britain continue to be very challenging, according to the Potato Council Grower Panel Lifting Survey it is estimated that over 77,000ha (64% of the total crop and over 9,000ha greater than last week's estimate) was cleared to Friday 19 October, with the GB harvest running approximately three weeks behind last season. The current estimate is over 38,000ha less than the same week in 2011 and over 35,000ha less than the average of the previous three seasons.

Wet weather is continuing hamper lifting in all regions in the country. Yorkshire and the Northeast bore brunt of the weather with further waterlogging, also in Scotland heavy rain interrupted harvesting in all areas and overnight frosts were reported in the north.

According to Colin Galbraith from Moorehouse and Mohan, the situation is potentially disastrous. "The amount of potatoes in storage is minimal and in some areas the harvest is only 30% complete with fields waterlogged, frost and snow is forecast for the end of the week, this is a potentially disastrous situation."

Colin says they are already importing heavily from Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and Poland to fill contracts. "We can import enough volume at the moment but I expect that later on we will have to look further afield. Big potatoes are hard to find, sizes in the European crop were small."

Another major importer who said they were importing strongly just now said , "The British crop is short and quality is poor and prices are increasing on the continent every few days. At the moment the price increase is not being passed on to the consumer, the packers are taking the hit."

This is echoed by Colin who says the packers are under pressure from the retailers, "This situation cannot continue, the packers can't withstand these losses without going bankrupt."

As Christmas approaches the situation is likely to get much worse, even with a lowering of standards in skin finish, size and shape the situation will be critical well into 2013. Supermarket prices will certainly increase and consumers will have to pay much more for their potatoes.

As for the seed potato harvesting, that seems to be going a bit better. Alasdair McLennan from Cygnet PEP, said that 75% of their seed potatoes were already lifted and exports started a couple of weeks ago. This mainly due to the fact that seed potatoes are burned down earlier in order to hit Autumn export markets, but he does admit that it has been a challenging season all-round. The yield for seed has been fair.

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