GB Potatoes: Trade and the European market

Stay in touch with the latest trends in European production and prices. Scroll down to additional information section for further dashboards and commentary.

The European Market

This season the NEPG has estimated a harvest of 27Mt for the EU-5. This is a 10% increase from last season and 1.8% above the five-year average, driven by an expansion in area. Yields remain below the five-year average (-6.8%), due in part to the summer heatwave earlier in the season. There have been difficulties lifting due to wet weather and there are concerns for the potatoes entering stores during this period. While careful management may mitigate some of the problem, rots and breakdown may increase and we will likely see higher wastage later in the season.

Most of this season’s area expansion was driven by the continued demand for processing potatoes and anecdotally we know that there was little increase in the fresh area. As such supplies of fresh potatoes remain relatively tight in several of the NEPG countries. This market is further supported by demand from Eastern Europe for table potatoes, with Poland and the Czech Republic suffering from ongoing drought.

Additional information

The 2018/19 season has shown some unusual trade characteristics. The UK has remained a net exporter of fresh potatoes for the second season running. This is despite production falling by 1.1Mt and stark differences between seasons.

From July 2018 to June 2019 exports of fresh potatoes were up by 16% year on year. After a slow start, fresh exports capitalised on a lack of continental potatoes, running well ahead of previous seasons. The increase was mostly driven by exports into Belgium, where a challenging season caused struggles in ensuring continuation of supply to processors.

Exports to Eastern Europe saw large growth with large volumes of fresh packing varieties heading over to Poland and to a smaller extent the Czech Republic.  With both countries still suffering from severe drought this is a trend we would expect to see again this season.

Fresh potato imports have fallen on the year, down by 4%, with the bulk of fresh potato imports from Israel and Belgium. We'd generally expect to see fresh imports increase in a low production year. This unusual trend is likely to be due to a combination of reasons. In 2018, 2017/18 supplies were used well into the 2018/19 season. Such challenging growing conditions early on in 2018 meant that a lower production year was anticipated and supply carefully managed. Supplies on the continent were also low, so there wasn't plentiful volume of competitively priced imports.

Imports of frozen potato products continue to increase, up by 10%, while exports reduced, by 3% compared to the same period last year. The bulk of processed imports continue to arrive from the Netherlands and Belgium, with most of this ending up in the domestic food service industry. The largest volumes of frozen potato products are exported to the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.

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