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Rain delays planting and puts pressure on potato prices

A delay in planting the new season's potatoes is likely to put pressure on prices over the coming weeks as well as the forthcoming season, friers are being warned.

After several months of potatoes remaining around the £4-£5 a bag mark, prices have been creeping up steadily over the past four to six weeks with top quality agria and markies now costing up to £8 a bag, reaching £9 in Scotland.

Citing the wet weather leading up to and over Easter for the hike, Stuart Mitchell of Rugby-based merchant Mitchells Potatoes explains: “We’ve had a lot of rain so farmers are late on planting, which means the current season is expected to go for longer and that puts pressure on prices. It’s not going to be  anything too horrendous but prices will rise.”

Although it is estimated that only 25% of the anticipated crop has currently been planted, fish and chip shops may well be shielded from the worst effects because of a larger yield earlier this year. Andy Lomas of Yorkshire-based potato merchant Lomas Potatoes explains: “While there is most certainly a delay with the new season’s crops being planted, we had a good yield last year and that, combined with the fact that 5-8% more area was planted, will cushion the problem of late/new varieties somewhat. We will get through it, it just means as supplies do start to dwindle, the guys with the best stuff will be pushing for the best prices, so prices will continue to rise but there will most certainly be enough to go around.”

The delay in planting is likely to push the new season’s potatoes back to around 10th July - approximately three weeks later than last year when they hit the market in volume around 23rd June. While it’s usual for prices to fall back again at this time, friers are being advised that this might not be the case and they should brace themselves for higher prices later in the year.

Stuart Mitchell comments: “Prices will most certainly be more expensive next season than this season and that’s because the delay in planting means the potatoes won’t have as long in the ground, so they’ll have less time to grow. Plus, because it’s been wet and cold, the seed beds which they are planted in are not in the best conditions and, as we all know, potatoes like warm weather. So the yields are expected to be slighter lower next season because of less time in the ground and poorer seed beds.”

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