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British potatoes stock reach a high, but warning over quality

Article Date: 2018-02-07

Information sourced from AHDB Potatoes -

GB potato stock levels at the end of November are estimated at 3.6Mt, the highest level for this point in the season since 2010/11. With production estimated to be up 15%, at 6.04Mt, the higher level of stocks in store at the end of November comes as no surprise.

The latest estimate is based on AHDB grower panel survey data looking at stocks at the end of November 2017. This survey covers grower held stocks only and does not include stocks held by purchasers. Furthermore, when considering comparisons, it is worth being aware that the error margin for the estimate is approximately +/- 5%.

Drawdown from production

Although stocks are at relatively high levels, the rate of drawdown has been faster than last year. Indeed, an extra 130,000 t has been utilised from grower stores. This pattern is typical following low production years. With minimal carryover, crop utilisation between harvest and the end of November tends to be greater. If we compare to another season where the previous year had a smaller supply, like 2013/14, we can see that this year’s level of drawdown is nowhere near as increased as it has been. Following the 2012/13 season, where production was extremely low, the drawdown between harvest and end of November 2013 was around 600,000t greater year on year. This indicates that drawdown is often greater in years following a season with a low level of production. However, it is important to highlight that the length of time between harvest and the end of November does vary year on year, depending on how early or late harvest is, which could also affect the quantity of drawdown.

Figure 1 above shows production and storage survey results since the 2013/14 season. We can see that 2017’s production is at the highest level throughout this time and subsequently, end-Nov stocks are higher than in recent years.

How does this season compare with the last 6Mt season?

Throughout this season, we will be comparing to the 2011/12 season when production also reached the six million tonne mark. Figure 2 below shows this.

So far, we can see that the 2017 season is closely following the 2011 trend for the end-Nov stocks. However, from this point there are two diverging routes depending on your viewpoint. If we take into account the advances that have been made to utilise crops more efficiently in recent years, coupled with improved storage capability, we may see a slowing down of crop use as the season progresses. On the other hand, this is very dependent on crop quality and reports suggest there have been quality issues this season due to poor conditions at harvest. This could have affected quality as crops went into store, which could impact wastage in store, and actually lead to a faster drawdown in stocks.

The next stocks figure will give an indication of which route will characterise 2017/18…

Concluding comments

With much of the season still to come, and with production being as high as it is, it is unlikely that stocks will be as tight as they have been over the last two seasons going forward. However, as we only measure the amount of crop in stores and not the quality it is always worth being aware that there have been storage quality issues reported, and this could impact the size of the marketable stocks later in the season. For more information on storage, please see AHDB’s storage bulletin, available here.

For more detail on the stocks situation, we will soon have a new storage dashboard available on the Potato Data Centre.

Fish Friers