Lifting after late planting and looking ahead to next season

09 October 2023

Tim Rooke

Tim Rooke

NFU Potato Policy Group chair | NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board vice chair

NFU Potato Policy Group chair Tim Rooke

NFU Potato Policy Group chair Tim Rooke on lifting this season's potatoes and making plans for next season.

Lifting is well underway now, with some of us already finished and others with a way to go. The recent heavy rainfall meant a pause for a lot of us and, for some of the more unfortunate, crop damage and losses, but hopefully the worst is behind us now.

Yields seem to have recovered better than expected after our late planting and record-breaking heat in June, although some are seeing some quality issues related to the wet conditions, and storage conditions will need careful consideration.

Planning for next season

Although we may be pre-occupied with the current season’s lifting, it’s important to think about plans for next season.

Since the demise of AHDB we no longer have a definitive figure for the ware planted area, although anecdotally it is understood to be down slightly. One figure we do have though is for the planted seed area.

Concerningly these figures show a drop of 1,000ha across England and Scotland and, combined with the lack of seed coming in from Europe, there’s a real concern about how much seed there will be to go around.

It remains to be seen as to whether there will be an outright shortage of seed, or if it’ll mean growers not able to get the exact variety that they would like. Either way, the advice is to make sure you’re speaking to your seed supplier in good time to understand what availability is.

Positive news

On the subject of seed, there is some positive news. As of 1 October, and as part of the Windsor framework, seed potato exports have resumed with Northern Ireland.

Although efforts are still ongoing to restore full UK-EU seed potato trade, this can be considered a very positive step in the right direction.

Canary Islands concerns

It’s not all been good news on potato trade recently, with the Canary Islands stopping UK imports over concerns about recent findings of Colorado potato beetle. Although this seems largely resolved, it has had a significant impact on affected exporters and has brought focus back on to this pest.

If changing climate trends mean this pest becomes more prevalent, it will be critical that we have the tools to deal with it, and that authorities are as prepared as possible.

I hope lifting goes smoothly for everyone from this point forward, and that the weather conditions are favourable. I’m thinking ahead to BP2023 where I’m sure I’ll see many of you, and certainly hope that lifting will have concluded by then.

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