NFU: Work together on potato shortage
Potato growers in the South West are being urged to contact their customers to liaise about their marketing situation, following a poor season.
With yields down between 12 and 15 per cent, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) is calling on potato growers and buyers to talk sooner rather than later to deal with problems that could arise as a result of this season's drop.
In the Westcountry, which is famous for the Cornish Earlies grown principally in the Mounts Bay area, the 2012 harvest was not as bad as in many other parts of the UK, particularly in the North.
But about 70 per cent of all potatoes are grown on fixed-price contracts, and growers would normally be expected to make up any shortfall by buying potatoes on the open market.
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This is clearly difficult when there is a widespread shortage and the open-market price has shot up as a result.
Tim Papworth, NFU potato forum chairman, said it was vitally important to deal with a shortfall of tonnage, or quality issues, as soon as possible and to build up communication with the contract buyer.
He added: "I have already heard of some buyers taking a pragmatic approach because they recognise that the shortages have largely been out of the growers' control.
"I believe this sets a good example of how relationships across the supply chain should work and I would encourage growers to talk to their customers and reach a sensible agreement."
The cool and wet weather throughout the summer and autumn limited growth and some crops were a fortnight late in being lifted. Yields were disappointing and the costs of production increased.
Mr Papworth said: "I can't remember a year like this. Potato growers have been working exceptionally hard to try to meet their customers' requirements and I believe this dedication and commitment should be acknowledged. It is vitally important to have positive working relationships across the supply chain, particularly during exceptional seasons like this one.
"I hope all parties can come to a common sense solution so that we can look to the season ahead and continue to deliver a high-quality crop, year in year out."
While yields have been challenging, a major concern about the supply of seed potatoes for next spring has been dismissed by industry experts. There should be no interruption to the homegrown seed supply this year, according to the Potato Council.