Goodbye, a year of bad weather
Both supply and sales of potatoes have been affected by extreme weather and ongoing trade disputes. It can be said that 2018 is a very difficult year for the world potato industry. But looking back on the year, should we be optimistic about the world potato market in 2019?
The soaring price of potatoes in Europe has already had an impact on domestic and export markets, with European consumers facing shorter cuts and paying higher prices - French retail prices are 20 per cent higher than last year.
After a tough year, European growers stopped growing potatoes, leading to a drop in production across the region, with production more concentrated in the five main potato producers.
Potato yields in North America are likely to remain stable this year, with U.S. growers planting about 370,000 hectares of fall potatoes. The only limiting factor may be the supply of sweet potatoes, which are down 6.5% in size in the U.S. this year. Canadian growers, who are likely to keep their acreage at about 140,000 hectares, are hoping for good weather next year until the end of the planting season.
Global potato market in 2018 - from surplus to shortage
In early 2018, prices in Europe were low and in the United States were high. A large number of potato crops entered the market in Europe in 2017, pushing the price of processed potatoes below 20 euros per ton. Five major potato growers in Western Europe - Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK - produced a record 38.7 million tonnes in 2017. In the year ending July 2018, Dutch potato processors produced 217,000 tons of potato products, while Belgian potato processors used nearly 4.6 million tons of potato raw materials in 2017, an increase of 88% compared with the same period 10 years ago. The processing output and export volume both reached a record breaking level.
Growers are planting their potatoes a month later than normal due to the late spring cold after a potato glut in 2017. This resulted in a decrease of 1.6 per cent to 808,460 hectares in the five major potato producing countries in Europe and a 2.5 per cent decrease to 1,681 million hectares in the 28 European countries.
The cold weather of march in Europe was quickly replaced by the hot and dry weather of June and July. Temperatures hit a record high in June and rainfall was only a quarter of normal levels. August brought some rain, but it did not save the crops. Instead, it damaged the secondary growth of the unirrigated potatoes. Finally, the European region produced 52.3 million tons this year, the lowest on record. Five major potato producers produced 31.4 million tons, the lowest since 2012 and 18.8 percent lower than in 2017.
Lower yields inevitably lead to higher prices, with potato prices at or near record highs in many countries. It is also expected that planting in 2019 will be affected by a lack of certain varieties, which could keep prices high for the new season.