Crisp production threatened by poor potato harvest

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Poor weather conditions threaten the supply of potatoes in the UK
Poor weather conditions threaten the supply of potatoes in the UK

Related tags: Ambient

Manufacturers of crisps and frozen chips are at risk of losing access to vital raw materials, after wet weather prohibited the harvest of potatoes destined for food processors.

While recent figures from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) pointed toward a fairly successful harvest – 89% of crops lifted, despite reports of the third worst autumn on record – crops grown specifically for use by food manufacturers still remain in the field.

As of 12 November, only 67% of crops have been harvested in the north west of England, an area that typically grows late harvest processing varieties. These potatoes are allowed to grow in bulk and then lifted later in the year.

Potato quality

Concerns surrounding the quality of potatoes going into storage were also raised by AHDB Potatoes, due to the increased risk of damage at harvest caused by wet conditions and heavy soil contamination.

The threat to the 2019 harvest, coupled with one of the worst British potato harvests in recent years in 2018, has led to significant lower volumes and processors noting a direct impact on the quality of raw materials.

Andrew Curtis, director general for the Potato Processors’ Association, said: “This is the second consecutive year that the potato harvest has been impacted by adverse weather conditions.

‘High level of concern remains’

“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.”

British potato processors have begun working with growers on scheduling to ensure maximum use of the usable crop. However, this approach could be limited by the physical characteristics of specific varieties required of frozen potato and crisp production, warned the AHDB.

Daniel Metheringham, agriculture director for frozen food producer McCain, said the company had already seen an impact from the extreme weather, with crop that cannot be harvested lost.

“We want to thank our growers who’ve been working tirelessly, taking every opportunity to get out in the field and harvest where they can, but a significant amount still remains in the ground.

​We are monitoring the situation very closely and will continue to work side-by-side with our growers and across the supply chain to maximise the yield and limit the impact on customers and consumers”

Meanwhile, last month, the AHDB launched a new free education service to improve pork handling skills.

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