Potato market chronicle September 2016

Publication author: Frédéric Laviron – Roussineau SA

Potato market chronicle September 2016

“He who speaks sows, he who listens reaps” Pythagoras

The rainy spring and overly dry summer brought a touch of uncertainty to a potato market whose fundamentals were already sound at the end of May. In fact, while harvesting was delayed by an average of 2 weeks, stocks from the old crop were exhausted, enabling the early season to run smoothly.

Any variety with a dry matter suitable for industry is the prey of industrialists, who are gradually capturing most of the batches… leaving traders in the North, supplying the fresh market, often on the verge of running out of stock at the end of the day.

The fresh produce market, faced with an excessively mild autumn, is struggling to catch its breath. Volumes are not going out. In a market that is not very keen on supply, very firm, and too long poorly supplied due to complicated grubbing-up, consumption of fresh potatoes is falling back. On the export market, Spain still finds, depending on the location, domestic products delivered at a lower price than our ex-factory prices! Only “premium” batches of Monalisa, Agata and Melody are charging. But beware of internal strikes and disputes! Germany supplies Italy at lower prices. Polish potatoes, despite “phytosanitary barriers” and varieties that are often unknown in the West, remain very attractively priced.

Agata are hardly offered at all, except at prices that are immediately unaffordable. Neither are firm meats. Given yields, farmers are hoping for better prices in the second half of the season. In this context, nothing is written for the rest of the campaign. Beware of overconfidence!

Some market figures

While the general consensus in France is for a 3.5% increase in acreage, the latest yield estimates point to a significant drop (-7%), particularly for early varieties. French economic players are worried that they won’t be able to fill their fridges, which means that prices will remain high for the start of the season. The year’s growing conditions are also being criticized, leaving some uncertainty as to presentation qualities, with dry matter measured at over 26%. Nevertheless, there should be no shortage of potatoes in Europe, with Germany predicting a good harvest in the north and a more average one in the south; the English, Belgians and Dutch are predicting average yields.

French seed potato harvest September 2016

So are we alone in Europe in thinking about good sales prospects this year? “Truth is not accuracy” wrote Octave Mirbeau. My truth is that prices are likely to remain at the same level until March-April, in a market that is traditionally buoyant towards the South; sales prospects in Eastern Europe and Italy, at the start of the campaign, are virtually nil, given that Germany is offering its crop at much lower prices and Poland is announcing a good harvest (in volume at least). Even so, the hole left by the cereal harvest in farm balance sheets could prompt some producers to take advantage of early-season prices. Finally, the French seed potato harvest is also expected to be smaller than the previous one.