Coronavirus: support for potato growers

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many are facing loss of demand and uncertainty about when it might return. You may have also experienced disruption to and restrictions on your normal business operations. This information will help you face the challenges.

The huge changes to our way of life have affected each part of the potato industry in different ways and this may mean you need to make immediate changes to your business operations.

You may be thinking about options to store potatoes for longer, sell them to new customers or be wondering when your existing customers might be back to full capacity.

Our resources and guidance will support you through the current situation.

When will fish and chip shop demand return to normal?

The almost complete closure of fish and chip shops at the start of lockdown meant demand in the fresh chip and bag market plummeted.

How many tonnes of chipping potatoes are in stock?

Fresh bags and chipping stocks that remain in grower ownership at the end of March were estimated at 157.3Kt - close to the five-year average. After the huge demand drop in late March and April - May and June saw more shops opening with social distancing measures, though demand is still below normal levels as Covid-19 restrictions affect footfall in most areas.

What has demand been like? How has this affected the price? How much chipping and bag trade was there last week? Forecasts: chipping and fresh bagged potatoes supply vs demand

What will the demand for potatoes be after restaurants and food service reopen?

During lockdown the supply of potatoes to restaurants, fast food outlets and other food service channels (such as schools and sports stadiums) was almost completely lost overnight. Since then there has been a slow and cautious reopening of some restaurants but demand remains at a fraction of previous levels.

How many tonnes of processing potatoes for the French fry market are in stock?

‘Processing and other ware stocks’ held in grower stores were estimated at 417.2Kt at the end of March, 27% above the same point last year. Restaurants such as McDonald's and Nandos have been slower to reopen than fish and chip shops, though the beginning of June saw the start of some movement in the sector - from the grower point of view this is highly likely to be easily met by on-contract supply. Similarly schools are taking more pupils from June, though demand for potatoes will still be below normal levels.

How will potato processing demand be affected by a long period of lockdown easing? Can the increased sales of frozen chips at retail make up for the loss of food service? How much processing trade was there last week?

What has the growth in frozen chip sales been in retail?

During lockdown, both fresh and frozen potato sales in supermarkets have been significantly up on last year, as the vast majority of food shopping switches to retail. The growth in potato sales has trended above the overall growth in food and drink.

Frozen chips sales at retail accounts for 40-45% of the French fry processing market in the UK.

Get the stats - weekly potato sales in supermarkets What does lockdown easing mean for restaurants and food service?

Can I supply my potatoes into other markets?

Yes you can, potatoes sold to packing and processing markets will be subject to different specifications, most notably:

What specifications are there to supply potatoes to the fresh sector?

All UK supermarkets require grower suppliers to be Red Tractor assured

CIPC dose rates for supply to the fresh market have been lowered IF a test has been completed to show the MRL is not exceeded

What is the CIPC MRL for supply to the fresh market? How do I test my potatoes for CIPC residue?

Is there help if I want to find new buyers for my potatoes?

In May we launched a new portal to help put potato growers and wholesale buyers in touch with each other. The portal acts as a ‘match-making’ site for growers and merchants to find each other, with any trade taking place directly between them. We worked with the NFU and BPTA to ensure growers and merchants were consulted in its design.

Post stocks of potatoes you wish to sell into other markets on the AHDB trade portal here

How do I store my potatoes longer?

As a result of the disruption caused by Covid-19 you may be forced to store your potatoes for longer than normal as you wait for demand to pick-up. Our storage research team have compiled some tips on how you can control quality issue and sprouting for longer.

How can I store my potatoes for longer?

What support is available for me, my business and my family?

When faced with challenges, it’s reassuring to know that there are a number of charities you can lean on. Their practical advice, guidance and support continue to make a huge difference to many in the farming community.

Support for you and your family

NFU legal helpline

The NFU are working to support members through this period, and indeed we are working closely with them and other partners to support the industry as a whole.

They have a section on their website for potato growers affected by the impact of coronavirus on the market. They also have a free legal helpline, available to members during office hours.

NFU Call First Legal helpline Visit the NFU Coronavirus pages for potato growers NFU Potato Sellers Checklist (NFU members only)

Staying up-to-date with seasonal issues, agronomy and storage challenges

We have made our summer events programme digital, with a series of 10 potato focussed webinars forming part of the packed summer programme across AHDB. Our forthcoming digital events are below. It is also worth making sure you're getting our newsletters on storage, agronomy and markets by filling in a keeping in touch form.

9 June: Potato store cleaning and best-practice to reduce CIPC residue 17 June: Weed management for potato crops 23 June: Post-CIPC potato sprout control for the processing market 30 June: Post-CIPC potato sprout control for the fresh market

Support with key business challenges

Looking after cash flow, your mental health and your staff is fundamental when faced with challenges in business. This information offers practical advice and support.