North-Western Europe: Official estimate of lower harvest; quality, processing concerns

Image result for europe potato harvestThe North-Western European Potato Growers Association (NEPG) estimates the upcoming harvest of the potato crop destined for fresh consumption to be 18% below last year’s total, and 8% under the 5 year average. This, in spite of the fact that the total area planted this season was 8,4% more than the average area planted during the last 5 seasons. In a press release, NEPG says the extreme drought and high temperatures all over North-Western Europe resulted in an estimated average yield of between 40 and 41 tons per hectare in the 5 leading potato countries (Germany, Belgium, UK, Netherlands and France). The main harvest is just now getting underway in Great Britain, and the NEPG says it is still difficult to come to a reliable estimate of the final harvest in the UK. The NEPG estimates the combined total harvest of potatoes for consumption in the north-western European countries to be between 23,5 and 24 million tons. Continue reading

Ireland’s Meade family ‘gleaning’ up to keep sustainability at the core

Meade Potato Company in Ireland won on the double at the recent Food and Drink Business Awards, taking home the ‘Fresh Produce Company of the Year’ and ‘Sustainable Factory of the Year’ awards. The family firm’s Robert Devlin and Eleanor Meade rushed to the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening, September 5, after a busy afternoon spent ‘gleaning’, a joint initiative with FoodCloud community foodbank and Lidl Ireland corporate social responsibility (CSR) volunteers. ‘Gleaning’ is the collecting of produce that has been left behind in the field after the harvesting has been done, according to Jeni Meade, marketing communications manager at Meade Potato Company. It is a word that crops up in the bible in the context of asking that the ‘gleanings’ of a field be given to the needy.  “‘Gleaning’ is currently very popular in the US and UK but has yet to become that widespread in Ireland,” she says. Read more

British chips to become much shorter

Image result for british fish and chipsBritons will be served up shorter chips this year as potato farmers across Europe struggle to cope with the worst summer drought for decades. Britain eats 1.75 million tonnes of frozen chips every year and is, alongside the US, the world’s largest importer of the product. Almost all frozen fry imports to Britain, about 750,000 tonnes, come from the Netherlands and Belgium. The hot weather and lack of rain has hit European crop yields, resulting in a drop of about 20% in Northern Europe, and made the potatoes, usually the size of a small brick, smaller. That will mean smaller, shorter chips, potato experts in Britain and Belgium have warned. “This was the hottest British summer since 1976, which any potato person will tell you was an almost mythical year,” said Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, “it is still talked about in potato circles. The chips are down,” he said, “You can expect smaller chips in Britain and in Europe.” Read more

Late blight update issued for the UK

Image result for fight against blight ahdbAccording to Dr James Cooke at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, having experienced one of the driest seasons since the Fight Against Blight began – clearly the weather has had a major impact. “After some early appearances on discard piles in Kent in mid-April, we have received very few recorded outbreaks compared to previous years. This has allowed us the time to genotype the samples as they arrived in the lab, and we now have genotype data for 24 positive outbreaks.” The data indicates a similar pattern to last year with the new lineages 37_A2 and 36_A2 in Kent and, more recently, in Shropshire. There have been no findings of these genotypes beyond their 2017 range but the hot, dry weather will have been a major factor in limiting pathogen movement. There are only two confirmed outbreaks from Lincolnshire, to date, so there remains a possibility that it is present but not yet sampled. Read full update on the AHDB Potatoes website

Idaho’s Norkotah crop looks good, Burbank crop may be lighter

yyyThe 2018 Idaho potato harvest got under way with Russet Norkotahs in early August, and by the first week in September, most growers in the state had started digging Norkotahs. While there is always variation from one field to another, growers were generally reporting good volumes with a good size structure and very good quality. Russet Burbanks, which are harvested later, could be another matter. While early test digs showed indications of a large crop of good-sized potatoes, after the first of August the Burbanks appeared to stop growing, and as of late August, test digs were showing small size and low yields in many fields. Growers remained hopeful that in the time remaining before harvest, the potatoes would size up enough to produce a fairly normal crop. Acreage-wise, Idaho growers planted 311,316 acres of potatoes in 2018, up 3,550 acres from the prior year, but most of that is for processing, and fresh acreage is down 8,877 acres, according to Rick Shawver of United Potato Growers of Idaho. Read report in The Packer

International potato sales highest ever for the United States

Image result for potatoes usaAccording to a press release issued by Potatoes USA today, the value of total U.S. exports of potatoes and potato products increased by 2.37% for the July 2017 – June 2018 marketing year compared to the previous marketing year. The $1.8 billion in international potato sales is the highest ever for the United States. The biggest gain came in fresh exports up 8.5%, with dehy up 6% and frozen up 1.8%. The only decline was a drop of 4% in the value of chip exports. However, the fresh weight equivalent volume of exports declined by 0.86% to 3,246,830 metric tons or 71.6 billion hundredweight. This represents approximately 20% of total U.S. potato production for the marketing year. The only products to show export volume increases were dehydrated potatoes up 2% and seed potatoes also up 2%.  Continue reading

Austria’s potato harvest 2018 turning out far below expectations

Image result for austria potatoThis year, decision-makers from the Austrian potato industry again gathered in Roseldorf/Lower Austria at the end of August to discuss the state of the national and international potato markets, reports AgrarMarkt Austria. All provided various contributions and evaluated the current situation in Austria’s potato industry. After a good starting price of 35-40 EUR/dt at the beginning of June, prices stabilized four weeks later at 18-20 EUR/dt. At the end of July, however, there was no longer talk of any oversupply. As the season progressed and there were problems due to the heat, both stocks and prices changed. At the beginning of August, the extreme drought had spread to almost all large growing areas. In many places, the damage had already been done. This year’s harvest will go down into domestic potato history as consistently difficult. Read more

Germany faces ‘severe potato shortage’ and increase in consumer prices, farm organization warns

Related imageGermany faces a severe potato shortage as a consequence of unusually hot and dry weather this summer, the German Farming Society (DLG) warned on Wednesday. “We are expecting one of the smallest potato harvests of all times in Germany”, Martin Umhau, a member of the DLG supervisory board, told the German press agency (dpa). According to Umhau, an anticipated fall in potato yields from 11.7 million tons in 2017 to 8.5 million tons in 2018 could hereby lead to an increase in consumer prices by up to 30 percent. Umhau was speaking ahead of the start of PotatoEurope 2018 in Germany this past Wednesday. Potato farmers are one of several agricultural sectors in the country who said they face the prospect of widespread crop failures due to the hot and dry summer. Federal and state-level governments announced that they would set aside 340 million euros (394 million U.S. dollars) in financial aid for farmers who suffered particularly heavy losses. Read more

Blame the European heat wave for pricier fish and chips

Image result for fish and chipsThe record-breaking heatwave and lack of rain across Europe has hurt potato crops, with prices tripling in the U.K. in August from a year earlier. That’s forced fish and chip shops to charge more for a portion of fries that form one half of the traditional British staple. Further price hikes loom, said Andrew Crook, president of the federation representing more than 10,000 fish and chip shops across the UK. “It’s going to be a disaster for us this year,” said Crook. “I’ve never seen prices of potatoes be that high at this time of the year. We are getting squeezed.” With Europe accounting for eight of the 10 biggest potato eating nations, there’s likely to be fierce competition for the starchy tubers this season. “We will be fighting for potatoes with Europe,” said Crook, the president of the National Federation of Fish Friers. “There are not enough potatoes to go around, and everything is quite small.” Read more

Below average potato crop expected for Canada’s largest potato producing province

It is getting late in the growing season, and the Prince Edward Island Potato Board says without some rain soon the harvest will come up short. According to a CBC report, board general manager Greg Donald says “it’s been relatively dry, and since August we’ve had spotty rainfalls across the province and above normal temperatures and wind, and that’s created dry conditions.” There was very little rain in July, and Agricultural Canada classified most of the Island as abnormally dry at the end of the month. There was rain in August. Donald said even the rain that has fallen has been spotty, with some areas getting quite a bit and others hardly any at all. “I’d say at this point it’s going to be a challenge to get an average crop on P.E.I. overall. Some areas are going to do OK, the ones that got the rain. Other areas, it’s really impacted the crop where there hasn’t been rain.” Time has already run out this year for some early varieties of potatoes, Donald said. Read CBC report

Tereos to start potato campaign in France

Tereos has started its potato campaign in France which will be spread over 160 days with almost 9,600 hectares of starch potatoes expected to be exported. To ensure the competitiveness of this cooperative sector, Tereos has invested a total of €25 million (US$28.9 million) over the last three years and is taking further steps to enlarge the company’s total storage capacity. According to the latest European Union estimates, the performance of the 2018-2019 campaign will no doubt be less than the average of the last five years. Tereos is employing new agronomic and environmental measures to promote production, according to the company. Read more

Europe: French fries feel the pinch as hot summer frazzles potato market

file6ucrflv77s7cmsp8kic.jpgWhether you call them chips, frites or French fries, it’s shaping up to be a bad year for potato lovers. The record-breaking heatwave and lack of rain across Europe has hurt potato crops, with prices tripling in the UK in August from a year earlier. That’s forced fish and chip shops to charge more for a portion of fries that form one half of the traditional British staple. Further price hikes loom, said Andrew Crook, president of the federation representing more than 10,000 fish and chip shops across the country. “It’s going to be a disaster for us this year,” said Crook, who started helping in the family chippy at the age of nine. “I’ve never seen prices of potatoes be that high at this time of the year. We are getting squeezed.” In the UK, a metric ton of fresh potatoes surged to 300 pounds (S$536.32) last month, the third-highest on records going back to the 1950s. Read more

British potato company agrees to £52.95mln cash takeover offer

Image result for produce investments potatoOne of the UK’s leading potato producers Produce Investments PLC has agreed to around a £52.95mln recommended cash takeover offer from a Jersey company ultimately owned and controlled by funds managed by Promethean Investments LLP. The AIM-listed group said April 1983 Bidco Limited is offering 193p in cash for each Produce Investments share, around a 35% premium to the stock’s 142.50p closing price on Monday. It added that the offer is conditional, amongst other things, on valid acceptances being received in respect of more than 50% of the Produce Investments shares.  Continue reading

Unfair trade practices by Canada blamed for rise of potato imports to the US

Related imageThe latest numbers show that potato imports to the U.S. continue to rise. That’s according to numbers from Trade Stats Northwest. The largest source of fresh imports continues to be Canada. Growers in the Red River Valley argue that continued growth may be the result of unfair trade practices put in place by the Canadian government, and they want U.S. lawmakers to begin thinking about a response. “We’re looking for fair and equitable trade. We’re pro-trade but we want it to be fair for all parties,” said Northern Plains Potato Growers Association President Donavon Johnson. One of those policies is called a “ministerial exception.” Canadian buyers cannot purchase U.S. potatoes until all Canadian fresh potato inventory is exhausted. Johnson said they asked for a similar policy to possibly be put in place in the U.S. Johnson said the NPPGA’s initial research indicates that Canada growers and shippers, with the help of their government, are increasing fresh potato production for the purpose of increasing exports. Read Spudman article

Colorado potato growers expect good 2018 crop

San-Luis-Valley-potato-harvestCooperative weather during the growing season has San Luis Valley potato industry in the US Colorado members anticipating a good crop. Companies expected solid quality and about the same volume as in 2017, with demand also holding steady. Jim Ehrlich, executive director for the Monte Vista-based Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said there are about 52,000 acres planted this year. “We’ve had a warm summer that at our elevation is a little bit unusual, and it’s been really dry, but the crop looks really good,” Ehrlich said. “We’ve had adequate irrigation water and very few storm events, so I think we’re going to have an exceptional crop.” Ehrlich expected volume for the region to be steady, with acreage roughly the same as 2017. Jamey Higham, president and CEO of Monte Vista, Colo.-based Farm Fresh Direct, also reported that growing conditions have been solid. Read more