Unprecedented low levels of rainfall combined with very high temperatures have led to supply concerns within the fruit and vegetable industry across the UK. There is a risk that overall yields and the average size of many fruits and vegetables will be lower than usual. Within the fruit industry, smaller and lower quality fruits are expected as fruits ripen faster in warmer, dry conditions.
Additionally, every month since March this year, the UK has received below-average rainfall, compared to the 30-year average. This is contributing to a decline in water reserves used for irrigation. According to market participants, crops on unirrigated land are suffering the most. For potatoes, the critical development period is in August. As potatoes require high supplies of water to bulk up yields, a soil moisture deficit is expected to reduce yields and therefore, cause a decline in production. However, there is huge variability across the country, with some market participants reporting an estimated decline of up to 40% compared to expectations, whilst others are expecting no change, as irrigation prevented crop losses. Processing crops are expected to be hit more severely than the packing sector, with a higher proportion of processing crops grown in areas without access to irrigation.
The Mintec Benchmark Prices for new crop white packing potatoes in England were assessed at GBP 170.0/MT on the 16th of August 2022, up 6% year-on-year (y-o-y). The full extent of the damage to crops will be seen during the maincrop harvest, and poor yields could lead to prices staying firm at these levels.