There has been a shortage of potatoes at the heart of the potato processing industry. In Belgium, the harvest has been especially disappointing, resulting in shortages and high prices. Polish exporters have tried to take advantage of that gap in the supply, although the country has harvested a large volume of low-quality potatoes this year. The US has recorded the opposite situation and produced a large volume of good quality potatoes, which has entailed consequences for the prices. The Chinese production is the largest in the world, but the yield is far behind that of Europe and the US.
Shortage of industrial potatoes in Belgium
A disappointing harvest took a toll on prices, although these stabilised again, also as a result of the limited market. Many potatoes are grown on a contract basis, with much going to the processing industry. A trader reports that this season there will probably be a shortage of potatoes for processing. To overcome that deficit, growers and the industry are already planning ahead. Thus, there have already been early plantings in southern France in order to ensure an early start of the season. Moreover, there are imports coming from other countries, but because demand is high worldwide, this will probably prove insufficient. Prices for the Bintje, Challenger, Fontane and Innovator will range between 25 and 27 Euro per 100 kilos.
Netherlands: Good start for potato market in the New Year
Potato marketers have started the year on a positive note with a relatively flat market and a high price level. In recent weeks, the quiet potato market has partly been the result of the holidays last month. In the first week of the New Year, the upward trend will continue. The futures price rose this week to 25.50 Euro and has greatly improved over the last two weeks. The demand for potatoes in the Netherlands is currently high. Factories have expanded their capacity and growers are unable to keep up with their productions. That creates a certain tension in the market, but also results in good prices.
Plenty of low quality in Poland
Although this season there has been a surplus of potatoes, the quality has been disappointing. Importers have therefore looked to Germany for small volumes of high-quality potatoes. The volume of lower quality potatoes is still relatively large. Those potatoes are sold for about 7 Euro per kilo; however, the quality is too low to attract the interest of retailers. They consequently find their way into street trading and local markets. Better quality potatoes yield between 9 and 14 Euro per kilo. Producers are speculating on the possibility of rising prices in this category and are therefore reluctant to sell.
As regards exports, the Netherlands and Belgium have been the largest markets in recent months. The demand for potatoes for processing is especially high in these countries.
Cold weather in Germany good for storage
The start of 2017 has been quiet, with prices that remain stable. The cold weather of the past week has been good for the storage of potatoes. For fresh marketing, the potatoes yield between 17 and 20 Euro per 100 kilos, while potatoes for processing cost a bit more, with prices oscillating between 23 and 25 Euro per 100 kilos.
France closes tightly
By the end of 2016, there was a good market for potatoes. Prices stood around 25 Euro per 100 kilos of Bintje and Fontane. The Marquis, Agria and Innovator yielded between 27 and 29 Euro. When shipping to Italy, German exporters were the most challenging competitors.
Processing,Seine-Nord, unwashed 27/12/16 (w. 52) 03/01/17 (w. 01)
Regular flesh, various varieties. 360 UWW, 35 mm +, suitable for chips 25,00 – 30,00 (27,00) 26,00 – 29,00 (27,00)
Bintje, 35 mm +, suitable for chips 25,00 – 27,00 (25,00) 25,00 – 26,00 (25,00)
Fontane, 35 mm +, suitable for chips 25,00 – 27,00 (25,00) 25,00 – 26,00 (25,00)
On an annual basis, the price increased by 38.9%. That was due to a lower harvest caused by wet and cool conditions in the spring, followed by summer droughts. The potatoes intended for the processing industry suffered the most under these circumstances. There is an extreme imbalance in supply and demand and there are prospects for a notable rise in the demand from the processing industry. For 2017, contract prices are also expected to increase.
Chinese yield very low
Despite its low yield, China is the largest potato producer worldwide. For the season 2016/2017, its production volume is expected to increase by 3% and amount to 100 million tonnes. The main reasons for the growth have been the favourable weather conditions and the greater acreage. The low quality of the seed potatoes and the high pressure from diseases result in a low yield. The yield is just one-third of that achieved in the US or Europe.
The growth is driven by a rising demand for potatoes and a government program to invest in the sector. Some 60% of the production consists of potatoes for fresh consumption; another 15% is intended for the processing industry. Seed potatoes account for 10% of the production. The losses are considerable and could amount to 15%. This is due to poor storage conditions. China does not import potatoes and it is negotiating market access with the US.
Plenty of good quality in the US
The US market has had to deal with a surplus. Thanks to good conditions in Idaho and Washington, there is a surplus of potatoes. Idaho sets the tone on the potato market, as it is responsible for the largest volume. Due to the favourable conditions, the quality of the potatoes has been great, but due to the large volume this has not resulted in high prices.
In other states, the conditions have been less favourable, but their impact has been overshadowed by the huge volume from Idaho and Washington. Potato prices are expected to remain stable at the low end. The Russet is still the dominant variety, both in Idaho and in other parts of the country. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for the cultivation of red potatoes. Catering and retailers usually prefer the red varieties. For yellow varieties, the demand is stable, while white potatoes are losing market share.