The North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) estimate the potato yield in the participating countries (Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) will be 22.99 million tonnes.
This is down 14.5% compared to last season. The reduction is the result of a 5.8% smaller potato acreage and a 9.2% lower yield per hectare.
The estimates are based on the ongoing harvest and harvest samples in various NEPG countries. During this season, Germany experienced the best growing and harvest conditions. In Germany the yield is estimated to be comparable to the 5 year average. The NEPG does note, that most of the potatoes still need to be harvested. Yield sampling shows extreme differences between potatoes that were planted early in the season compared to potatoes that were planted later. The last potatoes were planted in June this year, which is very late.
'Small' potatoes, high dry matter
All 5 countries report a tuber size distribution lacking in the amount of large tubers as required for processing. Potato dry matter content is high, which would help the factory yields of the crop.
High dry matter content makes potatoes very sensitive to black spots, hence growers are cautioned to handle the potatoes with extreme care.
The NEPG is expecting high demand by the potato processing industry and export markets. For the first time, demand in both Belgium and the Netherlands may exceed the available amount of potatoes in these countries. Hence, imports from neighbouring countries is expected.
Although all elements are in place to increase prices, not all growers may benefit of the resulting high price, since a considerable amount of the crop is contracted on a fixed price.
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NEPG acreage estimates for North west Europe 2005 - 2012 (September 2012 estimate)
However, the equilibrium between supply and demand has changed. The increase of the cost of potato cultivation has been considerable and it is hard for farmers to make a profit when the actual costs per ton (including the costs of equipment, labour energy and yield/ha) is not known.
Higher variable costs, quality deviations and a lower yield have affected the saleable yield this year to a large extent and hence the profit per hectare. It is important for the entire sector to recognize these influences. Especially when entering the contract negotiations for next season.