This year has presented formidable challenges for the potato sector. The lingering impact of COVID-19, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, rampant inflation, and volatile weather has resulted in a perfect storm. 

These challenges have also significantly impacted the wider agricultural industry, causing ripple effects throughout the entire global food market.

Here in the UK, challenges of late and unseasonable weather during this year’s harvest season have dominated our own thoughts, and that of the wider potato industry.

Current crop status

This season, we’ve experienced a cold, wet spring, which delayed the planting of potato seed. Summer was cooler than last year, with low light levels, and high temperatures in early September. Four named storms hit the UK during the autumn, from late September to mid-November. These contributed to exceptionally wet and, at times, stormy weather, which caused widespread impact. 

This pattern of wet weather resulted in waterlogged fields, affecting the progress of this season’s harvest significantly. Waterlogged fields result in distressed crops and, if left for too long, will result in rotten potatoes.

At the annual British Potato Show in November, the general consensus without hard data, was that up to 15% of the UK crop and 40% of the Irish crop was yet to be harvested, as a result of the poor weather.

It’s highly likely that a proportion of the crop will be left in the ground until the spring, when we will see what can be salvaged. The potatoes that are lifted will be of poorer quality with high levels of rot. The condition of these potatoes will need to be monitored closely for long-term storability.

So far in December, we’ve already experienced icy conditions and snowfall, which will only further exacerbate the condition of the potatoes in the ground. 

The Farmers Guardian estimates that the UK potato crop could be as low as 4.14 tonnes this season, compared to 6.2 million tonnes in 2017. This would make it the lowest potato crop ever recorded in the UK.

The shortages of potatoes may result in an increase in prices, and a reduction in availability.

The problems haven’t solely affected the UK crop, however. Reports from Holland suggest that up to 2 million tonnes of potatoes are unlikely to be harvested this side of Christmas.

Working with our growers and partners

On our own farm, we have about 5% of our total area left to harvest. We’re working closely with our growers to make the most of the crops that are currently being harvested.

Our transport, storage and grading facilities have never been so important. Growers are utilising our transport services to move their crops into dry conditions, while our grading services are essential for removing soil to ensure optimal crop conditions for marketing or storage.

We’re also working closely with customers to ensure that, wherever possible, supply and contract plans are interrupted as much as possible.

Looking to 2024

Our team is currently reviewing seed outputs from the 2023 harvest, to ascertain availability of seed stock, ahead of 2024 planting.

Anticipating a tight seed supply for the 2024 crop, we’re encouraging all growers and customers to get their seed plans confirmed as soon as possible. This will dictate growing plans for 2024, with the most popular and premium varieties, such as King Edward, already in very short supply.

Discussions with all customers regarding 2024 supply programmes are ongoing, and we will have contracts available for consideration throughout December. 

We’re encouraging growers and partners to sign up as soon as possible, to ensure that everyone’s expectations are met for the year ahead.

If you’d like to speak to us about your requirements for the year ahead, get in touch with a member of our team today.