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Hold out for new season's potatoes, say some merchants

While the first of the new potatoes are starting to make their way through to fish and chip shops, some merchants are encouraging friers to stay on the old for a few weeks longer.

The warning follows freezing temperatures in March, which delayed planting for some weeks, followed by more recent scorching temperatures and dry weather, which cause potatoes to stop growing.

Merchants are also keen to calm fears of a potato shortage, saying there will be no lack of the starchy vegetable, but prices will be firm.

Andy Lomas of Yorkshire-based potato merchant Lomas Potatoes comments: “Today is the first day most farmers are starting to look at picking. There are a few being picked already but I don’t think with this heat it will be a good idea to pick them and put them into chip shops, they just won’t hold up.

“As it is, we and most other merchants are all selling the old season’s, they are three times as big, they’ll stand better in the chip box and they are half the price of the new ones.”

He warns friers to be patient, adding: “Wait another week before popping over on to new ones. These high temperatures are stopping the potatoes growing and the crops in the field are behind where they should be. Potatoes actually stop growing at about 26C so when it’s 29-30C they just don’t grow. Although it cools down at night and they grow a bit, they then don’t have the sunlight they need.”

Some friers keen to switch to new potatoes have snapped up the first early bags with maris bard and accord hitting the market at between £9.50 and £11.00 a bag and some Cyprus Diva and Spanish Agria available at £12-12.50 for a 20kg bag.

Rumours of a potato shortage are also being quashed with merchants believing friers will benefit from a knock-on effect from last year’s high yield season before experiencing higher prices.

Andy comments: “At this time in July there aren't usually this many good quality potatoes available, but there is because last year was a good year. More area was planted, it was a good yield and every farmer I know had more potatoes than the year before. But the prices were generally low, so this year they’ve not planted as many, plus planting couldn’t start until the beginning of May because of the weather, and the potatoes have not grown as big yet so the future speculation is that they are going to be dear as there won't be as many.

"There won’t be a shortage but I don’t think there will be a glut either. It’s bordering on just being a bit of a dearer year next season than last.

“Let’s hope next year we can plant in March, when we should be planting, and not in May. If we can’t, then it will make two dear years on the trot.”

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