UK potato growers could be missing out £700 per hectare according to Rob Clayton, AHDB Potatoes Strategy Director. Speaking at the Farming Scotland Conference in Carnoustie Rob, detailed an AHDB analysis which looked at some of the top 25% of producers and found that improvements in seed rates and energy efficiency could be worth approximately £37,000 for the average grower. He said: “Farmers are not collecting this extra income for a number of reasons. Changes to seed and nitrogen rates and making simple investments to improve store performance can make a real difference to the bottom line. We need to work on supporting producers to changes their practices to improve productivity and increase their yields and margins. Our Strategic Potato Farm Programme is a key part of those efforts.” When AHDB last analysed the figures in 2015 average UK potato yields were 48.8 tonnes per hectare, while Germany, France and Belgium were achieving yields of over 50 tonnes per hectare. Belgium was particularly strong with 56.2 tonnes on average.
While this is partly down to environmental factors such as soil quality and weather as well as variety mix, the AHDB analysis demonstrates that there is room to increase those figures.
Rob also called on the industry to embrace and incorporate the changing tastes of consumers. The consumption of fresh potatoes has long been declining, partly due to a greater diversity of products, yet there are growing markets which the industry can and should exploit.
He said: “Many consumers are looking for convenience, they are looking for meal time solutions rather than ingredients. Because of this we see the chilled potato sector is growing, chilled mash, or roast potatoes for example and we need to make sure we are tapping into this.
“Premium potato products are also important, especially as we see a global surge in the middle classes, and therefore not only do we need to produce more such products, but we need to build relationships with those growing global markets which are looking out for these premium goods.”