Aviko’s UK-Ireland Manager Expects Higher Potato Prices

“It's likely that 2015-16 will be a year of change, and we should expect to pay more for our spuds due to the comparatively lower harvest,” Mohammed Essa, the Blackburn, England-based general manager of Aviko operations in the UK and Ireland, said on September 29.

His assessment came in the wake of a bumper 2014-15 potato crop which led to low prices paid to farmers across Europe, and added to the deflationary economic environment that consumers continue to enjoy today.

Production lines at factories of the Steenderen, Holland-headquartered Aviko maker of frozen french fries and specialty products have been processing the new crop of potatoes since the middle of July, approximately two weeks later than normal due to a late spring, low temperatures and drought conditions in various regions that led to a delayed harvest.

mohammed-essa-mugshotMohammed Essa, general manager for Aviko in the United Kingdom and Ireland.In addition, weather patterns in major growing regions resulted in generally smaller tubers than usual. As such, the yield expectations of potato harvests in the EU’s major producing nations were adjusted slightly at the beginning of the month and, as announced by the Northwest European Potato Growers, are now estimated at 24.5 million tons. This is 4 million tons below 2014’s crop, and 700,000 tons under the five-year average. It's important to keep in mind, however, that some plantings still in the field have the potential to grow. 

The abundant rainfall towards the end of August, following the hot, dry periods of previous months, have resulted in lower dry matter content across many potato varieties.

In most fields, plants are now maturing and farmers are slowly starting to spray and finish the crop, opting not to wait longer and risk wet and difficult harvesting conditions throughout October.

“Based on today's situation, we expect a below average yield, with smaller tuber lengths from the sandy soils until February, and average tuber lengths from the clay soils in the second half of the crop year,” Aviko advised customers in a statement issued on September 29.

Going forward, General Manager Essa is optimistic about prospects for the frozen potato products business.

“As the global population rises and net migration across much of Europe increases, there will be a demand for larger crops,” he said. “The question is: Will we have enough varieties of potatoes to feed the global population in the years ahead?”

Through centuries of selective breeding, farmers now cultivate over a thousand different varieties of potato, each with a slightly different texture, color and a neutral starchy flavor that can serve as a blank canvas for creative chefs.

“So for now, let's enjoy the new harvest, be thankful for the fresh produce the new season brings, and work together to make sure we continue to invest in good food for current and future generations,” said Essa.