UK potato production hits lowest level since 2012

The total potato harvest for 2018 in GB is 13% down on the five-year average of 5.6m tonnes at 4.9m tonnes, according to figures published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The relatively low-production figure is a result of an estimated 4.4% drop in planted area, and a 12% drop in average yield.

The crop was heavily impacted by a combination of late planting and the prolonged hot and dry weather that stalled tuber growth in June and July.

The one area of Great Britain that avoided the effects of the summer heatwave was Scotland. Potatoes grown north of the border enjoyed a 3% increase in yield against last year to 49.2t/ha.

But the total production of potatoes in Scotland was still down, due to a decrease of 1.6t/ha in planted area.

Average yields in England were 40.1t/ha, a 20% decrease from the 49.9t/ha seen last season.

Sector Strategy Director at AHDB Potatoes, Dr. Rob Clayton said: “The average yield decrease is the result of large variations from field to field. Growers were battling a shortage of water this year.

The combined June and July period was one of the driest on record. Fields that were irrigated will have enjoyed a reasonable crop, while in others yields were very low.

Only 53% of the land in Great Britain planted with potatoes this year had access to irrigation, according to an AHDB estimate.

“We won’t run out of potatoes,” continued Dr. Clayton. We didn’t in 2012, and we won’t in 2018. But what consumers will notice is a wider range of shapes and sizes in the bag they bring home to cook with.

“These shapes and sizes are a normal part of any harvest; they’ll still taste great and will still contribute to the nation’s vitamin C and fibre intake.

With fewer potatoes around this year, supermarkets won’t be able to only choose from the middle section of sizes. Hence, here will be more variety in the bag.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has published potato output figures in Northern Ireland for 2018. These put the pre-harvest production estimate of maincrop ware and seed potatoes at 114,700t. This is a 25% decrease from 2017.

In 2018 the area planted decreased by 11% to 3,600ha with yields decreasing by 16%. The total pre-harvest estimate, including early varieties, also decreased by 25% to 116,100t.