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.
As growers continue lifting while case numbers are on the rise, they face selling into an uncertain marketplace.
Our resources and guidance will support you through the situation as it changes.
What is the size of the British Potato harvest as the Coronavirus pandemic continues?
While the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on demand this year, many growers planting decisions were set before the virus hit the UK and lockdown measures were imposed. This means we could be facing a reasonably sized crop in 2020/21 but met by subdued demand as a result of the ongoing effects of coronavirus.
What is the potato planted area for 2020 and what could the total crop be?
The AHDB’s first estimate for the total GB potato area for 2020/21 is 119Kha. It was suggested at the time of planting, that growers were generally continuing with their original intentions as the pandemic struck too late. Despite early crops being effected by frost’s in May, crop prospects are relatively good and expecting an average GB yield of 45t/ha isn’t out of the question. This would lead to a potential GB potato crop of 5.4Mt.
What will happen to the potato market if there is a 'second wave'?
With cases rising, we have forecast how supply and demand could look in chipping and processing sectors based on various possible situations. AHDB has developed three scenarios for recovery, covering a range of possible routes out of lockdown.
What could changing lifestyle and shopping habits mean for potato consumption?
Until recently the big consumer issue for agriculture was the reputation of farming, particularly meat and dairy production. Plant-based was the buzzword of the day and sustainability and environment were a key focus. While these issues haven’t disappeared, short-term concerns about getting the family fed and longer-term financial worries have now taken centre stage. Are these genuine shifts that will shape consumer demand or drivers that will fade away as aspects of normal lifestyles return?
What was the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the potato industry during lockdown?
The almost complete closure of fish and chip shops at the start of lockdown meant demand in the fresh chip and bag market plummeted.
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
If you're selling old season stock from store then there are restrictions regarding the level of CIPC applied to the potatoes.
Outgrade piles can be a source of blight and viruses. Best practice and current legislation should be followed when managing outgrade piles.
Potatoes and AD plants
In May we launched a new portal to help put potato growers and wholesale buyers in touch with each other. The portal acted as a ‘match-making’ site for growers and merchants to find each other, with any trade of old-season stock taking place directly between them. We worked with the NFU and BPTA to ensure growers and merchants were consulted in its design.
*As of mid-July, we have changed the use of this portal to trading of old stock for non-human consumption, including requests from those that run Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants
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.
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.
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.
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.