Crisp production 'likely to be impacted' due to severe weather

The threat to the 2019 potato harvest is compounded by last year's harvest, which was one of the worst in recent years
The threat to the 2019 potato harvest is compounded by last year's harvest, which was one of the worst in recent years

Extreme weather has hit British potato processors for a second consecutive year and the impact could stall frozen potato and crisp production.

This is according to the Potato Processors’ Association (PPA), which warns that growers across the UK remain 'extremely concerned' with production.

It follows figures from AHDB which show that despite the wettest harvest year since 2012 and the third worst autumn on record, growers were able to successfully battle through and lift up to 89% of the 2019 potato harvest.

However, whilst the AHDB headline appears positive, the PPA says the picture is 'very different' across potato sectors and regions.

Since the report’s publication on 15 November weather conditions have worsened, with much of the remaining crop still in field and not be able to be lifted.

A further concern for potato processors is that several varieties, which are grown specifically for processing, are typically late harvested to allow for the potatoes to bulk.

AHDB reports that for the North West only 67% of the regional potato area had been lifted by 12 November.

For Yorkshire - which in October received 175% of ‘normal’ rainfall - a staggering 21% of the harvest has yet to be lifted.

The regions contain areas where these late harvest processing varieties are being grown, and as a result the processing sector is expected to be 'disproportionately affected', the PPA says.

Concern is also mounting around the quality of the potatoes going into storage.

Harvesting under wet conditions with heavy soil contamination - as in Yorkshire - will usually increase the risk of damage at harvest and crop loss in store.

The group adds that whilst there are limited reports of rot or disease in store it remains a 'real threat' to the sector and could 'significantly disrupt supply'.

The threat to the 2019 harvest is compounded by the fact that 2018 was one of the worst GB potato harvests in recent years, with volumes significantly lower than average.

Director general of the PPA, Andrew Curtis said: “This is the second consecutive year that the potato harvest has been impacted by adverse weather conditions.

“A high level of concern remains across the industry, and in particular within the processing sector, due to the fact that in some regions up to 23% of the crop still remains in the ground”.

Processors are currently working with growers on scheduling to ensure maximum use of the usable crop.