British Potato stocks down 13% on five-year average

The latest estimates from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show British potato stock levels were down 13 per cent on the five-year average.

The latest estimates from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show British potato stock levels were down 13 per cent on the five-year average.

April 26, 2019

Following the tough 2018 growing season, the latest estimates from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show British potato stock levels were down 13 per cent on the five-year average.

Despite a smaller crop this season, stocks remain higher than at the same point in 2012/13 (+162Kt) and are only marginally below stock levels in both 2013/14 (-10Kt) and 2015/16 (-6Kt)
 

(Click to enlarge) Great Britain Potato stock levels end March 2019 (Courtesy: AHDB)

Great Britain Potato stock levels end March 2019 (Courtesy: AHDB)

Estimates show grower held stocks were 0.98Mt at the end of March: 26 per cent down on the previous year. Scotland meanwhile continued to account for a large proportion of total stocks, with just over a third (34%, c.334Kt) estimated to be held by Scottish growers.

Aidan Wright, Analyst AHDB:
 
“Growers faced an uphill challenge with the extreme weather experienced at the start of last year, followed by a prolonged dry spell over the summer.”

“Careful management as well as a relaxing of specifications by buyers mitigated some of the impact of the season’s low production.”
However, this still means that British potato stocks are down following the smaller crop from 2018.

Aidan Wright:
 
“As we move into the new season, all eyes will be on the early crop.”

“Thanks to the clement weather experienced so far planting is progressing well and conditions are looking good across the country, although the general lack of rainfall is an ongoing concern for some regions.”
(Click to enlarge) Great Britain production and estimated end-Nov, end-Jan and end-Mar potato stocks held by growers (Courtesy: AHDB)

Great Britain production and estimated end-Nov, end-Jan and end-Mar potato stocks held by growers (Courtesy: AHDB)


Packing supplies bolster total stocks

While the overall stock levels stands 13% below both the five and three season averages, individual market sectors continue to show significant differences in drawdown rates. The unique start to the season is a key factor driving this.

We previously covered these diverging dynamics when we delved into the end of January figures. With sector level data available back to 2015, we are able to compare levels over the preceding three seasons (2015-18).

The total stock figure is bolstered by a relatively large quantity of packing supplies ( c.412Kt), which while 17% below stocks at the same period in 2017/18, remains slightly higher than average (2015-18).

At this point of the total crop left in grower ownership, 42% is intended for the packing market. This is 6 percentage points higher than average (2015-18) for this point in the season.
 
(Click to enlarge) Great Britain Prepack potato stocks (Courtesy: AHDB)

Great Britain Prepack potato stocks (Courtesy: AHDB)

Stocks for the fresh bags and chipping market are currently estimated at 153Kt, a 14% reduction from average (2015-18). While stocks are 32% lower year on year, levels remain in line with both 2015/16 (+8Kt) and 2016/17 (-6Kt).

For processing stocks, drawdown has returned closer to normal following increased movement earlier in the year as growers moved at risk stocks. Processing stocks stood at c.316Kt, 12Kt below stocks in 2016/17 another year of tight supply. This comes in at 17% below average (2015-2018) and a 25% reduction on the year.
 
(Click to enlarge) Great Britain Processing potato stocks (Courtesy: AHDB)

Great Britain Processing potato stocks (Courtesy: AHDB)

Scotland continued to account for a large proportion of total stocks at end-March, with 34% (c.334Kt) located within the country. An availability of competitively priced good quality packing material from Scotland has weighed on prices in recent months with material moving well into England.

With a significant proportion of stocks still located within Scotland this seems a trend that is likely to continue as the season moves forward.

Despite stocks remaining below average the careful management and relaxing of specifications this season has limited some of the impact from this season’s low production. With the likelihood of significant carryover to be limited to the packing sector, the availability of the early crop will be the key watch point as we approach the new season.

At this point, planting is progressing at pace and conditions appear good across the majority of GB. However, water availability remains a concern for some regions moving forward.
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