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.

Potatoes market outlook 2020-21 Stay up to date with market activity and the free-buy price with Potato Weekly

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.

GB potato planted area first AHDB estimate

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.

Chipping markets - possible supply and demand balance Potato processing market - possible supply and demand balance Coronavirus: Scenarios for exiting 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?

How might the consumer requirements change as a result of the pandemic?

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.

View some of the statistics and figures we shared during the early stages of lockdown

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.

Storing potatoes for longer due to the Coronavirus and dealing with outgrades

If you are storing potatoes for longer than you are used to, remember we have a full suite of resources on storage at ahdb.org.uk/storage-hub

Visit the potato storage hub

Outgrade Piles

Outgrade piles can be a source of blight and viruses. Best practice and current legislation should be followed when managing outgrade piles. 

Managing Waste Potato Piles: Best Practice, Tips and Legislation

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

Visit the AHDB non-human consumption trade portal

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.

Book on to forthcoming webinars Watch recordings of previous webinars

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.

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