Prices for best quality creep upwards - December 2019

Friday, 13 December 2019

As we come into December, there still appears to be a reasonable proportion of the crop left in the ground. As at 12 November, 11% of the crop remained unharvested according to the last lifting report. Since then we have heard of growers attempting to lift wherever possible with varied success. With the cold weather coming in and little soil drying, we may very well not see much of this crop being lifted this side of Christmas. Yorkshire and Northern England are particularly affected. What percentage of this crop will be usable when lifted in the spring is uncertain, but for processing varieties the fry colour could very well be severely affected.

Supplies that have come out of the ground are being utilised as quickly as possible, as storage of some of these crops is viewed as “risky at best”. A strong quality premium has emerged, with buyers having to offer higher prices to incentivise movement of good dry supplies from store.

Packing demand has begun to pick up in the run-up to Christmas, with packhouses topping up with free-buy when required. With large contracted volumes in Scotland and decent lifting conditions, we may very well see an increased volume of Scottish supplies moving into England throughout the season, helping to offset any shortfalls in English supply. This availability, combined with a reduced free-buy demand across the packing sector following increases to the contracted area, could cap prices later in the season.

Chip shop demand remains limited and it is reportedly difficult to match up buyers and sellers due to the variable quality. For best dry chipping supplies we have seen prices in the East creep upwards, particularly for varieties with tighter availability such as Markies and Agria. There seems to be a decent quantity of average to lower quality stock, which will need to find a home later in the season.

Despite being the worst hit by the weather, domestic demand from processors appears limited for the time being with little reports of free-buy trade. Anecdotally we know that a large proportion of the crop left in Yorkshire and Northern England is late processing varieties. If lifted in the spring, this could affect the fry quality and therefore suitability of these crops. Should this be the case, the question remains how processors will plug this shortfall. Will supplies be sourced from the continent or domestically, the latter potentially lending support to the chipping market.

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