Opinion

Despite Increased Potato Acreage in Europe, Discouraged Sentiment Prevails Toward Harvest

Potato Starch
Vegetables
Belgium
Emerging Market Opportunities
Value Added Potato
France
Sustainability & Environmental Impact
Published Aug 2, 2023
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The Northwestern European Potato Growers (NEPG) predicts a 2 to 3% YoY rise in EU-4 ware potato area in 2023, with the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany having the most extensive acreage since 2020. On the other hand, unfavorable growth circumstances early in the season raise doubts about the 2023 production, as the NEPG area's starch and seed area declines by more than 15,000 ha. Potato prices have surged considerably, with the average Spanish price for processed potatoes topping EUR 700 per metric ton in July. Seed potato acreage is also declining, falling by 2,500 ha in the Netherlands and France and even more in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and Scotland. A pessimistic outlook prevails among traders and processors for the upcoming European harvest.

The Northwestern European Potato Growers (NEPG) have recently published a preliminary forecast for the EU-4 ware potato area, which is expected to rise by 2 to 3% year-on-year (YoY). The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany's acreage under potatoes in 2023 is projected at 522,000 hectares (ha), the highest record since 2020. Besides the reduction in seed potato production, another fundamental reason for the lower return predictions is that most of Europe's circumstances were drier, with high temperatures and droughts affecting almost all the potato-producing regions.

Severe weather conditions significantly damaged potato crops last year, reducing European yields. In 2023, major potato-producing countries in Europe are feeling the effects of adverse weather, with record-high temperatures in Spain and Portugal leading reservoirs in Southern Spain to fall below 30% capacity. Northern Europe's chilly and wet spring has also delayed planting and hampered crop growth. As a result, potato prices have risen dramatically, with the average Spanish price in July exceeding EUR 700 per metric ton (mt) for processed potatoes for the first time. Prices of at least EUR 400/mt for processing potatoes have become the standard in France, Belgium, and Germany. In a previous analysis, Tridge reported price hikes for fresh common potatoes in June: Spanish Potato Prices Up by 32% MoM as Shortage Aggravates Due to Droughts.

An additional point issue that may have long-term implications is the reduction of seed potato acreage. Unfavorable growing conditions early in the season cast doubt on 2024 production since the NEPG area's starch and seed area is shrinking by over 15,000 ha. Seed area has decreased by around 2,500 ha in the Netherlands and France, which is anticipated to fall further in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and Scotland. If 10,000 ha of seeds are lost in Northwestern Europe this year, 100,000 ha of ware potatoes might be lost by 2024. Most of the surfaces meant for seed potatoes have been converted to processed potatoes due to increased demand from the processing sector and record-high prices.

Top Import Flows of Fresh Common Potatoes

Source: Tridge

The Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission forecasts a Dutch potato harvest of around 40 mt/ha, representing a 6% YoY decline in productivity. The estimate was 42.6 mt/ha in July of the previous year. Due to difficulties in the potato sector in Spain, France, and other Northwestern potato-producing countries, Tridge expects higher imports of potatoes in Europe and increased prices for fresh and processed potatoes.

The impact on 2023 output quantity and quality remains unknown, although global demand for processed potato products remains robust. Processors are considering delaying planned holidays and maintenance until the fresh harvest arrives. Europe's difficulties have created opportunities for potato-exporting countries such as China, India, and New Zealand.

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