NEPG announces slight potato acreage growth but questions about future production remain

August 2023

The North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) reports a preliminary increase in the area of ware potatoes by 2 to 3 %. A figure slightly higher than the record area in 2020, when it was 522.000 ha. However, NEPG notes that the challenging growing conditions of the early season have raised numerous questions about the 2023 production, despite a robust demand for processed potato products.

Seed Availability Concerns for the Upcoming Spring

As expected, the starch and seed area in the NEPG region is witnessing a decrease of over 15,000 hectares. Most of these hectares are now being used to grow processing potatoes, with a few redirected towards table markets. The seed area has seen a reduction of around 2,500 hectares in both the Netherlands and France. If Northwestern Europe loses 10,000 hectares of seed this year, it could potentially lead to a decrease of 100,000 hectares of ware potatoes in 2024.

Delayed Planting and Its Potential Impact on 2023 Production

Planting activities were delayed across all Western European countries this spring due to rainfall. The main crops were planted from mid-April to early June, peaking in the second half of May. The current situation suggests a persistent lack of sufficient rainfall, requiring irrigation where possible. Combined with delayed planting, factors related to the seed, soil preparation, and climatic conditions have impacted potato emergence and development. It’s still too early to predict the impact on the quantity and quality of 2023 production.

Strong Global Demand for Processed Potato Products

Despite the production challenges, the demand for free buy potatoes continues in all Western European countries. Processors are keen to secure the industrial raw material they need for the foreseeable end of the season. Some processors were even willing to accept almost any price for the last batches of the old crop without a contract. However, the supply of non-contractual processing material dried up at the end of June, beginning of July. Prices went from € 50,00/100 kg to € 17,50/100 kg end of august as the demand for short term deliveries decreased. 

In general, less tubers per plant are observed. But the tubers have a bigger size. Agria, Challenger and Fontane still have potential to gain some extra weight in the coming weeks. The growth potential will depend on the weather conditions. The harvest in France and Belgium is expected to be higher than last year. 

As the processing industry is creating more capacity and further investments are planned or implemented. The future for the potato raw material therefore seems assured for a while.

Source: North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG); Weuthen Kartoffeltag.