Imports and exports drop throughout May

Friday, 17 July 2020

The latest HMRC import and export data is now out and this covers up to May 2020.  Both imports and exports season-to-date (Jul-May) were down compared to both last year and the 3-year average.

Alice Bailey

Senior Analyst Potatoes



Imports of fresh potatoes and processed potatoes (product weight) in May 2020 totalled 107.9Kt. While this is back on last year (-39%) and the 3-year average (-9%), they do show an increase from the corresponding months in 2017 and 2018. In May 2018, GB import requirement was down due to the heavy production of the 2017/18 season. Although an overall drop has been seen there is some variation in the makeup of this figure. There was an increase in imports of fresh potates this year which is what has moved import levels above those seen in the previous three May's (2016, 2017 and 2018). The driver of the overall drop in imports comes from processing, primarily the reduction in frozen potato products coming into the UK.

43.7Kt of frozen potatoes were imported into the UK in May 2020. This was significantly behind both last year and the 3-year average, -63% and -42% respectively. We saw a significant drop of in frozen imports in both April and May. Imports of processed potatoes from both Belgium and the Netherlands dropped off, yet we know there was a surplus of supply in these countries. It’s quite clear this has been driven by falling domestic demand rather than lack of supply from the continent. I’m confident in my assumption that this is as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic as it curbed the demand picture for processed material in the UK.

Season-to-date (July-May)

Looking at the import picture on a season-to-date basis, total imports remain behind both last year and the 3-year average at 956.0Kt. Until March, season-to-date imports were tracking above average. Since March we have seen this drop and imports sit 7% below average but 31% below Jul-May last season.  Again, the driver of the drop in seasonal imports is driven by frozen potatoes which is down 14% (96.8Kt) from average, currently at 614.6Kt (product weight).


Exports have also taken a hit this year with May figures dramatically down, at 19.3Kt. Year-on-year comparison shows a drop of 79% for total exports (-73.3Kt). We have seen a significant drop in exports of both processed and fresh potatoes year-on-year and to a lesser extent, but still large, versus the 3-year average.

Similarly to imports, it was March when the cumulative exports fell below the average. Likely as demand across the globe was beginning to be curbed as result of the coronavirus pandemic.  July-May exports of potatoes was 377.1Kt compared to 608.0Kt last season or the 3-year average of 447.3Kt.

Additional information

For the latest UK trade dataset visit the Potato Trade page.

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