Last year, the potato supply chain was impacted by several challenges that unfortunately lead to poor-yielding crops. A cold, late spring and drought until June followed by unprecedented rainfall in the autumn months resulted in poor quality crops in store, and large amounts of potatoes left unharvested, resulting in a very tight supply scenario, with the market experiencing a near-800,000 tonnes shortage in potatoes. 

These challenges brought the risks associated with growing potatoes to light, and paired with a shortage of seed potatoes for 2024, growers have been questioning the benefits of growing potatoes. The cost associated with potato farming has also increased significantly over the past two seasons, with customer contract prices struggling to keep pace with inflation in some cases, all adding to the commercial stress within the supply chain. 

A new government support regime for agriculture promises to support growers and remove land from food production and put it into environmental schemes – a good return for little work and investment. 

“Speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary announced a range of measures to boost productivity and resilience in the sector, including the largest ever grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, expected to total £427 million.

This includes doubling investment in productivity schemes, bolstering schemes such as the Improving Farming Productivity grant, which provides support for farmers to invest in automation and robotics, as well as solar installations to build on-farm energy security.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-underlines-commitment-to-british-farmers)

There are some customers who have listened and understood the results of 2023 crops, and have adapted supply terms to make the best use of the crops that are available, whereas other customers have struggled to come to terms with the shortage. This split is also apparent with 2024/25 contract prices, with some customers moving towards sensible price increases and others ignoring the issues. 

It is positive that we are seeing an increasing number of the most forward-thinking, major buyers adapting their pricing, as well as quickly changing their specifications to respond to difficult seasons – in recognition of the risks and changes needed to ensure grower returns and sustainability. 

This needs to continue and buyers that don’t respond to these new market challenges risk being left behind. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we are certainly seeing those that will lead the way making these changes now, and they will be the ones with potatoes secured for the 2024-25 season.

 It’s important to keep in mind that with the right contracting and marketing plans, there are still very profitable returns to be made from growing potatoes. The issues associated with seed will continue to be turbulent for a year or two yet, but there are solutions on the horizon. We’ve been working closely with seed breeders and our customers to strengthen the seed supply chain, ensuring there are key varieties for future growing programmes. 

There is still seed available for 2024 planting, and AKP can provide solutions and support to growers who aren’t fully covered. Our customer position is continuing to evolve with all customers wanting more reliable results. It’s our goal to continue providing support, options and assistance to customers in the knowledge that we grow better together.