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Delay of potato harvest in all NEPG countries

In Belgium, according to Filière Wallone de la Pomme de Terre (FIWAP), Bintje processing prices are between £162-£178/t this week. As of 21 October, between 20-30% of the Belgian crop was still to harvest. However the regions of West Flanders and Western Hainaut had a further 10 to 20 mm of rain last weekend which has further delayed progress. FIWAP report that harvesters are running day and night to complete as much area as possible before the expected cold spell this weekend. Despite improved lifting conditions, supply is low and prices remain firm. Demand is reported to be strong from the processing industry and to export destinations including GB.

Harvested yields are reported to be very variable, especially for Bintje and Fontane, according to FIWAP. Latest surveys report a per-hectare drop in yields of 18% compared with last year and a 10% drop compared with the longer term average. A lack of size is a widely reported issue.

In the Netherlands, according to Phaff Export Marketing, processing demand last week was firm with prices between £162-£186/t, whilst fresh domestic and export sales were £162-£202/t depending on quality and variety. Around 20% of the crop was still in the ground as of 21 October.

However better conditions have allowed progress to be made this week. The processing market is firming, driving prices upwards where typically fresh and exports would dictate, a result of the recent higher-than-normal volumes being exported by the Netherlands to destinations including North Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the UK. The last VTA survey reported yield figures for the Netherlands of 51.5t/ha, close to the five year average but down 9% compared with last year’s higher than average yields.

According to the NAO (The Dutch National Audit Office), the Netherlands processed 300,000 tonnes of potatoes in September, 2% higher than the same month last year. During the last twelve months 3.6m tonnes were processed, this was also a 2% rise compared to the same period.

Fresh potato exports for the current season to the end of September were 164,000 tonnes, according to NAO, a rise of 15% compared with last season. Although the UK only imported 9,800 tonnes up to the end of September, this is 8,615 tonnes more than last season.

In France, the UNPT report processing prices are mainly £158-£166/t this week, depending on the variety. Due to recent wet weather delays to harvest, prices are strong and demand remains firm. A lack of size in crops, lower yields and a higher-than-normal presence of greens is reported, mirroring the situation in GB. Strong market prices have been driven by export demand from the UK (fresh and processing) and Belgium (processing). French exporters report that the UK has increased quality requirements to a more stringent level in recent weeks.

According to Phaff Export Marketing, the latest surveys reported a 7% lower harvest than the five year average. According to the UNPT, the latest harvest situation is variable across regions. In Nord-Pas de Calais lifting has resumed but some of the wettest areas are beginning to see some tubers appearing totally rotten as a result of high rainfall and standing water in the rows. There is also concern about lower temperatures expected from the coming weekend. In Champagne-Ardenne, most of the harvest is complete. In Haute-Normandie, harvesting has resumed after a very wet period. In Beauce, while all the potatoes are harvested, the sugar beet harvest and wheat plantings continue. In Picardie, there was virtually no harvest progress for several days last week but lifting has now resumed after wet weather delays.

The CNIPT (Comité National Interprofessionnel de la Pomme de Terre) report a stronger start to the French fresh export campaign compared to last season with nearly 47,000 tonnes (£7.7m) exported in August 2012. The largest movement was to Spain (13,900 t; £1.6m) and Belgium (12 800 t; £1.5m). Volumes to GB and the Netherlands were higher than previous seasons, but lower to Italy and minimal for Eastern Europe. Export prices improved between July and August, but have not reached the levels of the 2010-2011 season, when demand was high from Eastern Europe, especially Russia

In Germany, according to Reka, processing prices were £142-£150/t last week. According to Phaff Export marketing harvest is reported as being 5% down compared with the five year average and with significant yield variation. AMI (Agrarmarkt Informations Gesellschaft) report that the proportion of larger size tubers are significantly less, an issue commonly reported in other NEPG countries. Demand from Dutch and Belgian processors is strong with movement continuing to the former Yugoslavia, Italy and the UK.

As of 21 October the general picture is that harvest is almost complete, although there is still an area to be finished in the East of the country. Unusually, according to Phaff Export Marketing, processing prices are higher than prices for the fresh market, a scenario also being seen in the Netherlands. According to Ubifrance, German household consumption of 94,300 tonnes, in the month of August 2012, was one of the lowest ever recorded for this period.

HMRC imports and exports for the period June to August
This data analyses the situation up to the end of August. Trade has continued to report imports mainly from France, Belgium, Germany and Poland and we expect these figures to rise in subsequent reporting months. Figures for September will be updated within the next issue of Euro Potato.

According to the latest data provided in October by HM Revenue and Customs, fresh imports to the UK during the period of June to August this year totalled over 93,000 tonnes, an increase of 100% compared with the same period last year.
Total fresh UK exports during the same period exceeded 33,000 tonnes, but were down by 25% from 2011.

The increase in fresh imports and decline in exported fresh material from the UK reflects the strong GB price, testing growing conditions, delayed crop development and later than usual harvest, continually interrupted by difficult lifting conditions this season.

As of Friday 19 October, Potato Weekly reported just 64% of GB crop as lifted, three weeks behind compared with the same point last year, when over 90% of harvest was complete.

Over the last few months Potato Weekly has highlighted purchasers supplementation of the GB crop with imports. During the period of June to August, July was the peak month for EU imports to the UK at 37,000 tonnes.

89% of these imports originate from EU countries – primarily Northern European countries of France, Germany, Spain and Belgium.

Notably up to the end of August, France was the main supplier of fresh potato material to the UK, followed by Belgium and Germany. All of these countries have more than quadrupled their imports to the UK compared with last year.

UK export of fresh potatoes to Ireland up by 9%

Data from the HMRC up until August reports growth of fresh exports to Spain and Ireland. Of these countries Ireland is the most significant in terms of total tonnage, up 9% to 22,181 tonnes. Exports to the Netherlands and Denmark were down 86% (to 833 tonnes) and 76% (to 950 tonnes) respectively.

Strong processed potato exports

The latest HMRC figures show that UK processing imports were down 4.8% (to 339,593 tonnes) during the period of June to August, compared with the same period in 2011 while processed exports were strong, up by 132% on last year to 97,842 tonnes.

Over 99% of UK processing imports to the UK were of EU origin with the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium the largest EU suppliers and USA the largest supplier of non-EU material during the period.

As for processed exports from the UK, 33% went to EU countries, with Ireland and the Netherlands taking the majority while USA and Israel dominated non-EU exports.

Source: Potato Councli

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