Potato Weekly - 27 March 2020

Friday, 27 March 2020

At a glance

  • Anecdotal reports suggest that retail demand has started to lessen this week following the nationwide “lockdown” since Monday night. This has been suggested to be due to a reduction in panic buying as supermarkets introduce limits on purchasing. 
  • With the closure of non-essential shops such as eat-in restaurants, sales into foodservice have reportedly stalled.
  • As the outbreak continues, an increasing number of industry staff could face self-isolation. This has the potential to result in staff shortages for factories, packhouses and hauliers.
  • With blue skies across much of the country this week, planting has resumed amidst ‘perfect conditions’ for some. Others are still challenged by the soil conditions following this winter’s wet weather. Although some are behind schedule, the warmer dry weather will provide welcomed relief for planters.

Market commentary

  • This week has seen packing prices ease slightly from the highs of last week, as panic buying behaviour eased. This being said supermarket demand for potatoes is still fairly strong as staff restock shelves as quickly as possible. With customers having stocked up over the past few weeks we could see a slight dip in demand until consumers use their purchases. Anecdotal reports suggest that some packers are pulling April contracts forward, to help meet demand.
  • Chipping markets have largely stalled following the government decision to keep the public at home. There are reports of chip shops cancelling orders due to closures, although some are operating in a small capacity through delivery services. Due to this demand for chipping supplies are expected to remain suppressed until the government restrictions are lifted.
  • Sales of bagged ware have declined slightly following the large rush of customers over the past few weeks. Customers who opted to purchase 25kg bags, rather than retail bags, are likely to remain well stocked for the near future. As such demand is likely to dip further as panic buying behaviour eases. The good demand for ware potatoes seen over the past few week has meant that some growers and merchants opted to sell chipping stock as ware to help meet local demand. With an increasing number of consumers having turned to farm shops during this period it is hoped that an increasing number will return to farm shops once the pandemic has been resolved. Currently, there is a risk that some farm shops may have to close their doors to allow staff to self-isolate.
  • There has been a limited amount of processing trade reported this week, as foodservice trade has reportedly ground to a halt. The closure of UK schools and restaurants which do not provide delivery services has seen many orders cancelled. There are continued worries about potential staff shortages in processing factories should increasing numbers of people have to self-isolate. The potential impacts of this on processing output is currently unclear but remains a watch point.
  • Exports to the Canary Islands have reportedly almost drawn to a halt this week, as the coronavirus pandemic reduces tourist visits to the country. There has been very minimal trade with Ireland reported this week.

Alex Cook


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