Potato stock levels reached a record 2.4 million tonnes in January – up 25% on last year, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The latest data survey also showed that the rate at which potatoes left stores was at its highest level since 2010, when AHDB began measuring stock.
According to the new figures, GB stock levels held by growers rose by 492,000 tonnes compared to the 2017 end-January estimate.
And from November to January 2018. 1.19 million tonnes were drawn from grower’s stores – 226,000 more than the same period last season and 14% higher than the five-year average drawdown rate.
Although retail sales of fresh potatoes were up 3.6% in the three month period to the end of January, explaining part of the increase, AHDB also says quality has had a role to play.
Peter Collier, AHDB analyst, explains: “Another factor is a greater level of grade outs in this year’s crop. With quality reported as reduced in 2017/18, there has been an increased tonnage requirement to meet specifications, as seen by reports of a higher ‘out grade’ percentage than usual.”
Despite these record stock levels, AHDB is warning that the market could still tighten as the season progresses.
Peter adds: “The delayed, wet start to 2018/19 earlies planting could see this marketing season extended, causing a tightening of supplies before the new crop is lifted. Conditions can change quickly.”