Issues with quality and availability could see fish and chip shops paying more for their potatoes next year.
Merchants are warning that the most likely driver to push prices higher will be fry quality following a ban on CIPC, a chemical used to keep potatoes firm and sprout free for the months of March, April, May and June.
Tighter regulations on the use of agrochemicals means the tolerance for CIPC on potatoes has been reduced to such a low level that it will no longer be effective.
Stuart Mitchell, director at Mitchell Potatoes, says fry colour will be a major issue from March onwards. He explains: “This is the first season the industry has not been able to use CIPC. Growers are experimenting with spearmint oil, and Ethylene but neither have shown amazing results in keeping a consistent fry colour. Best samples are expected to be limited and receive high values from early spring onwards.”
Another concern for the fish and chip industry will be availability, with talk across the growing sector of large cuts in acreage, which could lead to the smallest planted area on record in the UK.
“This will be coupled with a weak pound, preventing the likelihood of cheap imports after Brexit,” says Stuart.
There is some good news in that despite a wet October, harvesting potatoes into store is almost complete. There have been a few reports of fields that are too wet to lift the potatoes but generally most crops have made it into store on time.
Currently potato prices remain pretty low, although large variations in quality is creating a disparity on price with some varieties ranging by as much as £1.50 a bag between the minimum and highest grades. Sagitta, Performa and Maris Piper, for example, are sitting at between £4.75 and £6.25 a bag, while Agria is fetching between £5.75 and £7.25.