December trade round-up: Potatoes

Friday, 19 February 2021

Seed exports stay strong in December ahead of EU-exit

The latest HMRC trade data covers up to December 2020, the end of the transition period. Seed exports continued to be strong, compared to previous seasons. Fresh exports, in December alone, also saw an uplift.


Total exports for the first half of the season (July-December) were down slightly (4%) year-on-year, but up slightly (3%) versus the 5-year average.

Seed exports, at 81.23Kt (July-December) were up 17% compared to the 5-year average for the time of year, but this is not unexpected. Seed exporters likely pre-empted issues with seed movement into the EU after the end of the transition period. Therefore, where possible, this resulted in some exports brought forward to avoid issues.

Fresh exports, July-December, are still behind previous seasons, although December trade actually saw an uplift. During December, 19.16Kt of fresh potatoes were exported from the UK. This is up over 3.10Kt compared to December 2019 or the 5-year average. The impending end of the transition period likely factored here too. Although fresh ware potato exports are able to continue post 1 January, this was not known until almost the end of December. The big driver behind the uplift in fresh exports in December was exports to Belgium.

Exports of processed* potatoes increased in December from November. This continued to push the season-to-date (July-December) volumes higher than a year before and the 5-year average. The key destination for processed exports was the Irish Republic.


From an import perspective, both fresh and processed imports were lagging behind the previous year and the 5-year average. These sat at 7.21Kt and 68.53Kt* respectively for the month of December. Season-to-date volumes are also back, although by a greater volume versus a year before.

There were quality concerns following a very wet and difficult lifting window in 2019, with some crops still unlifted by the end of December 2019. To mitigate any potential issues with the domestic crop, an increase in imported material was necessary. It was also in December 2019 when China identified it’s first case of coronavirus. Little did we know then how it would affect the UK.  

Despite a big drop in crisp imports when looking at December alone, crisp and starch imports are actually up year-on-year, on a season-to-date basis,


*product weight

Alice Bailey

Senior Analyst Potatoes

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