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Potato prices fall

Potato prices have fallen since the coronavirus outbreak, dropping by up to £2 a bag.

With many takeaways and restaurants closed and retail demand having reduced slightly, a surplus of stock has seen top quality potatoes fall from £9-£10 a bag four weeks ago to between £7 and £8.50 last week.

Stuart Mitchell, director at Rugby-based Mitchell Potatoes, comments: “Prices have come back a bit. If you want to buy the absolute best quality, which is what everyone should be buying at the moment, you’re looking at around £7-£8.50. If you want to buy cheap and cheerful, you can go down to £5-6.

“It’s a case of oversupply and under demand. Prices could be lower, but distribution costs are higher as those businesses delivering are not just delivering to one area, they might be doing one drop and then going onto the next, so that’s pushing prices up a little bit. Plus, the best stuff is still the best quality so farmers aren’t going to completely lose confidence.”

In Holland, the government has stepped in to buy 40% of the crop after Dutch farmers were left with a million tonnes of excess potatoes due to the coronavirus shutdown. With the same thing expected in Belgium, it’s a move Stuart would like to see happen here as it would add more stability to the market. He adds: “Its great to see fish and chip shops getting lower prices because they have been paying quite a lot over the last few years. But for farmers to invest in growing potatoes to the quality that shops want, shops have to be realistic and they have to realise we are going to be averaging around £7, £8, £9 a year for them to do so.

“Last year potatoes were at £15 a bag, so I think prices should be fair this year. We did have the potential during this pandemic to go to £12-13 a bag but that hasn’t happened.”

Looking ahead, it’s anticipated prices over the next two months will stabilise around the £6-8 mark, depending on the quality, and then it’s all down to the weather.

Stuart adds: “If growing conditions are good then prices, when we hit the summer, will come down again and we might be looking at £5-7 a bag or possibly lower, but if the weather isn’t good for growing potatoes then prices will remain where they are at the moment.

“As usual, there are lots of balls in the air, plus we have the extra unknown of coronavirus, but if the government does step in as they have on the continent then that’s certainly going to put confidence in the market.”

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