Potato market — It looks like being a tough season for potatoes across much of the world. The hot dry weather during the growing season in most production countries has had a severe effect on potatoes, as it has many other crops.
The global potato supply is predicted to be lower, as most countries appear to be expecting a slightly to significantly lower yield.
The huge increase in energy costs is also of great concern, as many are reluctant to store the crop, particularly while the prices are currently high. Europe in particular will likely have to turn to imports to cover the high demand on the market this season.
Netherlands: Exports were trigger on potato market
The weather largely determines the potato market at the moment. While for a long time it was too dry to harvest, now in many places there is too much rain to harvest,” said a Dutch potato trader.
“Potato exports were booming at the start of the season, including towards new destinations. However, currently, due to all the increased costs, potatoes are becoming too expensive for some destinations, especially in African countries.
“Fortunately, there is also patronage from Eastern Europe, and those countries are a bit more willing to pay the current prices, which gives the opportunity to pull exports a bit wider. And exports have been the trigger behind the current market after all. The industry sits very much on contracted potatoes and hardly buys any free potatoes.
“Understandably, the growers who have their potatoes behind the shelves want a higher price with all the drying and storage costs currently being incurred, but whether those costs are actually going to be paid is another matter. I certainly don’t want to talk the market down, but the current costs do make it hugely difficult to continue the price level we are at today.”
Belgium: Lower yields cause high prices
Because of the drought, there will be significantly lower potato yields in Belgium this season. “We do trial harvests every year and what we had feared is becoming the truth this year. 2018 was a bad year for yield, but this year’s crop is even a bit lower than that.”
According to a trader, this presents a difficult situation. “The current price level is so high that it is very tempting for growers with free potatoes to part with their potatoes now, catch a good price and keep storage costs at zero,” he says.
On the other side is the trader, who does not want to put such expensive potatoes in his storage, and the industry, traditionally the biggest buyer, which is always well covered off the land.
“From November onwards, it will be difficult to buy free potatoes anyway. Add to this the fact that no country in Europe can speak of a good harvest. The only exceptions are a bit of the Netherlands or northern Germany, but they are not going to save Europe either. This results in a lot of asking parties, so there could be a lot of movement in the export market. The question does remain whether such expensive prices will be affordable for everyone.”
Prices will continue to fluctuate between 25 and 30 euros this season. “Qualitatively, there seem to be little to no problems. Overall, things are looking good. There is a little dropout. The potatoes are a bit finer this season, though, and with the high underwater weights, grub damage could still be an issue, but there’s nothing to say for sure about that until everything is in the barn.”
Germany: Quiet but satisfactory market
Business on the German potato market was quiet but satisfactory. The availability of domestic potatoes expanded locally. The share of new floury-cooking batches increased in some places. Supply and demand were mostly in line with each other.
Valuations were not always consistent, which weakened demands somewhat, but often remained constant, with concessions the exception. In northern Germany, crop volumes are expected to be lower than last year.
In addition, some Belgian French fry producers will be purchasing goods in Germany at a very early stage. For this reason, the industry does not expect costs to weaken in the future, but rather to rise.
Austria: Poor harvest conditions
The harvesting of the Lower Austrian potato crop is not proceeding as quickly as in other years due to the ongoing rainfall. although deliveries are steady, they are rather restrained. The expectation of rising producer prices is also reducing the willingness to sell this year. Particularly in the case of lots that are not of very good quality, however, costs and benefits should be weighed up with regard to the time of marketing.
Switzerland: Smaller volumes, high quality
The potato year 2022 was challenging for growers. After the potatoes were planted in good condition, for the most part, the plants initially developed well.
However, several heat waves followed as early as June. The heat and drought are not ideal for potato crops; above the optimum temperature of 25°C, plant growth in the potato crop drops sharply. As a result. conventional potato yields in 2022 are about 10% lower than the average of the past five years.
Compared to the wet previous year, however, yields are still a good 10% higher. In organic potatoes, on the other hand, above-average yields were achieved this year.
The total harvest in 2022 will nevertheless be lower than the average of previous years. Nevertheless, the quality of this year’s tubers are very good this year according to Swiss Patat.
France: Yield below average so far, moderate sales
There has been a moderate demand since early September, with harvesting continuing at a good pace in France. Last week’s rains made it easier on some plots. Harvesting is finishing in Beauce and is well underway in Champagne (where the level of progress is at two thirds).
In the Hauts-de-France region (which produces 2/3 of the French supply), the progress of the harvests is variable and reaches 50% on some farms.
National yields are generally behind, with differences depending on the varieties and plots. In terms of trade, the pace of transactions has been generally moderate since the beginning of September.
The different ranges are being highlighted in the supermarkets to facilitate the act of buying, and even to encourage impulse buying by consumers. Brands, in conjunction with their suppliers, are communicating on the “affordability” of potatoes for all households, whatever their standard of living.
Efforts are also being made to ensure potatoes are advertised at a price that is psychologically attractive to the consumer. Let’s remember that potatoes are a mass consumption product, for which the price elasticity of demand is low, according to the data from past years on the correlation between price and purchases.
On the export side, the market is stable, but transportation problems can slow down operations and some destinations suffer more than others, such as Spain. In addition to the structural lack of drivers, but also to the increase in transport costs.
The decline of Spanish fruit and vegetable production could reduce flows from Spain to the rest of Europe and, by domino effect, reduce the availability of trucks from which France could benefit from the transport of its potatoes.
Ireland: Stable demand, reduced yields
Retail demand and consumption remain stable and are described as similar to pre-pandemic levels at present according to the IFA. Many growers are now digging into stores. There are reports of very dry harvesting conditions in the south east especially and some growers are delaying harvest to avoid damage upon lifting.
Demand for chipping varieties is strong with growers reporting calls from Europe for products. Queens have cleared well at this point. Lifting of Kerr Pinks has begun with excellent quality being reported, however, yields are significantly reduced.
UK: Fears about quality
In the U.K. recent rainfall has given some crops a boost and improved yields have been seen in the West Midlands. In the East, rain has been too late to make any significant difference. Agronomists note that some later varieties including Markies and Melody have “greened up” but now have lower D.M. and signs of secondary growth.
Quality issues are now also a huge concern. Levels of common scab in M.Piper are “disturbing” from Scotland down to the South East and “internals” are also being found. Bruising caused by high dry matter but also “tube sensitivity” is causing some high levels of rejection but damage levels are also on the increase as soils dry out again.
Italy: Demand fair, but prices rising
A leading trader in the north of Italy says that the demand for potatoes is fair but partly seems to be fed by those who want to speculate. Prices are rising. The retail trade is looking for products, even of low quality, in order to spend less.
“If we increase prices too much, orders will collapse and if consumption falls then it will be a problem for farmers and traders. So many shops are looking for cheaper products to make a margin. October and November will be the months when we will work harder and without too much of a margin.
“Costs, however, are getting worse: the electricity bill has risen from 12 thousand to 40 thousand in just one month with the same consumption. Prices must therefore be increased, but not too much. Prices in the field are higher than in other years because there was less yield in the north of Italy.”
“Currently, consumption is calmer than last month, as it is every year in September. An operator in the sector from Campania says: “At the moment we are buying products from France. Given the drought, potato production has suffered, with a decrease compared to last year’s campaign of around 30%.
“We are buying French potatoes in 1300 kg jumbo bags, at 0.35 €/kg. This quotation is due to the fact that potato production is lower and demand from various European countries, such as Italy, Spain and Portugal, is high. To this quotation must then be added the costs of transport by both road and rail.
“With this scenario we are worried, and not only about the increases! We wonder: will we manage to get through May/June with the marketing of French potatoes, and then start with ours? Among other things, we still don’t know what the crop schedules of Italian entrepreneurs consist of.”
In Calabria, based on the first digs, yields are estimated to be 10-15% lower, with smaller gauges, but excellent quality.
According to the statistics, potatoes remain one of the most popular categories in the shopping basket of Italian families. Fresh potatoes, in particular, are purchased by 85% of Italian families.
Spain: Drought and rise in production costs push up potato prices, fears of shortages
The Spanish potato harvest for the fresh industry continues in Segovia and it is expected to finish at the end of October, especially frying varieties like Agria, that will be stored for the winter.
The volumes are significantly lower compared to last year due to a decrease in the acreages in all the producing areas along with much lower yields due to the impact of the weather.
The drought has considerably affected the sizes, which are mainly small. This, together with the high increase in producing, handling, and packing costs has led potato prices to skyrocket and reach historical levels.
Both the fresh and processed industries are highly worried about this winter, as there could be a shortage taking into account that France expects a much lower harvest as well.
Prices could continue to grow affecting consumption, given that inflation is already damaging the economy and the purchasing power of the consumers.
Read also: A guide to growing potatoes
South Africa: Potato prices dropping
Limpopo Province is supplying 69% of South Africa’s potatoes at the moment and a fifth is still coming from the Western Free State.
Limpopo Province suffered two successive years of frost and concomitant very good prices. This season potato hectares significantly increased and supplies to the market have been very high leading to an oversupply, which seems to have been relieved and sales increased by 6% over the past week. Since the start of the year, Limpopo has sold 1.3 million bags more than their five-year average.
On the other hand, the Northern and northeastern Cape have sold 2.5 million 10 kg bags fewer and the Free State around 2.3 million bags fewer than their average since the start of the year.
Overall sales, however, are lower; South Africa’s economic problems are showing in reduced spending power and since the start of the year, 2.7 million 10kg fewer bags have been sold than the five-year average.
The potato price fell a further 10% last week to just over R35 (2 euro) per 10kg bag. Potato prices are between 40% and 60% lower than this time last year when frost damage reduced the crop and caused a brief shortage.
China: Heat and drought made for lower yields
A potato grower with 1,000 Mu of potato production in Inner Mongolia in Northern China comments about this year’s potato crop: “The potato harvest in Inner Mongolia is almost over. Potato production is lower than in previous years, this is mainly due to the drought and high temperatures over summer. Prices are relatively firm and are expected to rise further. The drought has reduced crop yield.“
Despite lower yields, China’s export numbers have risen. Relevant data shows that from January to August 2022, China exported about 220,300 tons of fresh or refrigerated potatoes (excluding seeds), an increase of about 2.57% compared with the same period last year; the total export value was about 119.65 million US dollars, an increase of about 6.43% compared with the same period last year.
North America: Prices could be even higher than last year due to lower supply
Potato acreage is down and yields are relatively low in Idaho. “Growers aren’t feeling very positive about their yields–they’re looking to be lower,” says one shipper.
He notes there are a few factors behind the reduced yields, starting with a delay in the crop at the start of the season.
“This year, it was a very cool spring and the plants didn’t get the level of growth that we expected them to have by the end of June. At that point, the plants were about two weeks behind,” he says.
“Then, the months of July and August were extremely hot. The reality is that the size profile of the crop never did develop as expected. The size profile is going to be smaller than last year.”
Along with Idaho, Colorado and Wisconsin are also late to start this season. This comes on top of a nine percent acreage reduction in the state at the start of the season–a total of 25,000 acres down.
“But that was understood from the beginning of the season. The disturbing thing right now is the yields being so much lower than they were expected to be,” he says.
He notes that the anticipated yield was somewhere around 440 sacks/acre, though there are reports that the further north the field is, the better the yield. However, one report was of 300 sacks/acre.
Recent reports also indicate that North Dakota has an average crop and Wisconsin pricing indicates they have better sizing than Idaho. Nebraska and Kansas could potentially have issues around maturity.
Meanwhile, demand continues to look strong for potatoes, even at the higher prices seen this year. “Our demand hasn’t changed. The market right now is a typical harvest market where the prices come down as harvest proceeds,” he says.
“But now every aspect of the industry is going to be competing for supply whether it’s the processors making fries or the dehydrators who make flakes or the fresh shippers. Every outlet is going to be competing for supply that’s lower than it was last season and last season’s supply was low enough to lead to record high markets.”
He says there’s no doubt that the market on average this year will be higher than last year. “And potentially we could see the peak season pricing be higher than last year,” he says.
“It’s a scary situation and something we haven’t seen before. With that reduction in acreage and reduction in yield, all bets are off.”
Peru: Sensitive increase in prices in the Great Wholesale Market of Lima
As reported by the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation (MIDAGRI), in general in Peru the area of the 30 main crops, which constitute about 90% of the planted areas in the country, has slightly contracted by 0.6% compared to the 2020/2021 campaign (from August to July), as a consequence of “the high prices of imported chemical fertilizers, which increased the costs of crops, decapitalizing producers”.
However, in the case of potatoes, the evaluation of the 2021/2022 agricultural campaign shows that tuber sowings totalled 339,581 hectares, increasing by 3.5% compared to the average sowings of the last five campaigns.
According to Midagri data, potato production had already grown by 2.8% in 2021, having totalled 5,668,898 tons for a 3.4% increase in yields, up to 17.1 tons per hectare.
In 2022, the accumulated potato production from January to July totalled 4,816,703 tons, that is, 7.6% more than that registered in the same period of 2021 due to the increase in the harvested area, as well as an increase in yields 3.7%.
In addition, during that period “there have been no major problems in the agroclimatic conditions that may have affected the crops.”
This increased potato production has also been noted in the volumes of potatoes that have entered the Great Wholesale Market of Lima, with a total from January to August 2022 of 450,430 tons, which represents 4.6% more in relation to the same period of the previous year.
However, despite the higher volumes, inflation is leaving a deep mark on the wholesale prices of this basic product in the Peruvian diet and, in fact, the second most important product for its contribution to the value of agricultural production.
A look at the most recent Bulletin on Potato Supply and Prices in Lima, dated September 27, 2022, allows us to see the increase in prices per kilo in recent months in the Great Wholesale Market of Lima, reaching S / 4.95 for the yellow potato (Tumbay), S/ 4.60 per kilo for the Peruanita or at S/ 3.70 for the Huamantanga.
But if we consult the Midagri files and compare these prices with those included in the Bulletin of September 27, 2021, we can see the true magnitude of this increase: last Tuesday, the Yungay potato had a price 85.4% higher that it registered just one year ago (S/ 1.13 on 09/27/21 vs. S/ 2.10 on 09/27/22); and that of the Canchan potato was 100% higher (S/ 1.09 vs. S/ 2.18).
Again, the price of the Unica has increased by 106.5% (S/ 1.08 vs. S/ 2.23); Huamantanga registered an increase of 166.2% in one year (S/ 1.39 vs. S/ 3.70); the price of yellow potatoes has shot up 272.2% in one year (S/ 1.33 vs. S/ 4.95), that of Peruanita 274% (S/ 1.23 vs. S/ 4 .60) and Huayro 187.5% (S/ 1.28 on 09/27/21 vs. S/ 3.68 on 09/27/22).
These increases could have sensitive consequences in a country in which the consumption of potatoes, as reported by Midagri on May 30 on National Potato Day, stood in 2021 at 92 kilos per capita.
Oceania: Potato consumption on the rise
An Australian potato industry body is highlighting the health benefits of the vegetable as the country heads into the spring and summer months.
In 2021, according to statistics, 87 per cent of Australian households purchased potatoes, buying an average of 1.7 kg of potatoes per shopping trip – and the supply per capita was 18 kg, based on the volume supplied. But this creates a huge opportunity for the industry to grow consumption, and WA Potatoes points out that is still well below other nations such as Ireland, which has a yearly consumption of around 85kg.
In its seasonal magazine, the organisation reminded consumers that while potatoes are perceived to be unhealthy and have high kilojoules, they have a lower energy density than other carbohydrate foods, and also have a valuable starch that has been identified as lacking in other diets.
Production-wise, there was a five per cent increase in volumes of potatoes produced in Australia, jumping to 1,458,991 tonnes and a 13 per cent jump in value to $807.3million, according to the figures.
Meanwhile, New Zealand reported that it was a tougher year in 2021 than the previous year, due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the rising costs of compliance and production meant a slight dip in overall industry value from $1.2 billion to $1.1 billion.
The data shows that 72 per cent of the NZ crop is processed (frozen and crisps) and this is the reason our industry value has held steady. There was also a doubling in value for the crisping sector, suggesting “comfort food” was popular during the pandemic.
However, the industry achieved overall value growth of 41 per cent since 2013. The peak industry body says the key takeaway from 2021 is that a strong domestic potato market underpins the industry.