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Potato Producers Need Positive Signals

Following one of the most difficult years on record, NFU Scotland is calling on retailers, processors and potato packers to send a positive signal to Scottish growers that their crops are needed and valued.

This week, the Potato Council revealed that potato production in Great Britain this year, at an estimated 4.56 million tonnes, is 25 percent lower than last year and the worst potato harvest since the 1976 drought.

NFU Scotland’s recent wet weather survey showed that at mid-November, one in three Scottish potato growers still had some crops to harvest.  Those that have got crops lifted have struggled in the wet and brought potatoes into store in less than ideal conditions.  Market returns are variable, the differential between farmgate price and retail price for potatoes is widening and the Union is alarmed at the low prices attached to some of the forward contracts being offered to growers for next year.

It is looking for the trade and key users to help promote stability and give a degree of confidence to those affected by this year’s unprecedented harvest as they will be swithering over planting next season.  

NFU Scotland supports the Potato Council’s proposal to hold a summit involving potato supply chain stakeholders early in the New Year to look at a the issue of contracts and securing a more sustainable sector in the future.

NFU Scotland Vice President Allan Bowie said:
“First and foremost, we need retailers and processors to show a greater level of understanding regarding how difficult a season this has been at farm level. Retail prices are rising but need to see that price increase make its way back to those who are growing and packing the crop.

“Prices do need to come up otherwise growers with options will plant something else next year.  The onus is on the middlemen to offer contracts that give a sensible, positive margin and on growers to know their cost of production and not to sign up to what may be a guaranteed loss.

“Supplies are going to be tight, particularly as we move later into the season and we are well aware that imported potatoes are coming in to GB in significant volumes.  

“Given the sensitivities at farm level, this needs all parts of the chain to take a mature approach to managing the market.  Growers need to be aware of the tonnages they are contracted to supply and if they were likely to fall short, early notice to their buyer would be appropriate.  At the same time, those buyers need to recognise what an exceptional year it has been and that those who are legitimately short of stocks should be shown a degree of sympathy.

“Looking ahead, members of our Potato Working Group have already indicated that many of the forward contracts currently on offer for the 2013 season are priced too low.  A year like 2012 means that growers, more than ever, have an excellent handle on the costs of growing and storing potatoes.  They can do the sums.  

“After a year like this, no grower should sign up to a potential loss so it is in everyone’s interests that the contracts on offer have the scope to generate sensible and fair margins for all.   The Potato Council has suggested that the whole supply chain gets round the table in the New Year to thrash out this issue and that is a move that NFUS would support.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 137/12


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