Thursday, November 15, 2018

Potatoes ‘less exposed to Brexit risks’ than many other sectors

November 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Potato growers are less exposed than many other sectors to Brexit, suggests a study which says leaving the European Union may provide opportunities – especially for processors.

“Tariff-free access is critical for most sectors, but for potatoes barriers might present opportunities for import substitution – particularly in the processing sector,” said David Swales, head of strategic insight at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Mr Swales was addressing the industry’s recent Potatoes in Practice event. Held in Dundee, the mainly Scottish audience heard that forward-thinking growers will be looking at opportunities to replace potatoes imported from within the EU with British-grown product.

Potato trade

Trade patterns for potatoes are quite distinct between fresh potatoes, seed potatoes and various processed products, according to an AHDB Horizon report examining what Brexit might mean for UK trade in potato products.

UK fresh exports are primarily to established markets such as Ireland and the Canary Islands. These tend to be for specific needs – such as frying supplies for Ireland. But fresh potatoes are expensive to transport so exports are a minor part of the industry, worth £43m in 2015.

Seed exports have traditionally been the focus of most UK export activity and are worth a similar amount to the UK as other fresh exports. Egypt has long been the main destination for UK seed exports and is also the largest destination for our main competitor – the Netherlands.

Among processed products, the most noticeable growth for UK exports is in crisps – valued at £63m in 2015. These have been growing faster than other EU countries’ crisp exports, against a backdrop of strong and consistent EU demand growth over the past 20 years.

Higher value

“The added value of processed potato products means they have a higher value to volume ratio than fresh potatoes, making them more efficient to trade,” says the AHDB report. “Furthermore, crisps have among the highest value per tonne of all processed products.”

A new Brexit Impact Calculator  launched by the AHDB this season allows growers to see how they may be affected by potential Brexit scenarios. Part of a wider suite of business tools, it can be found at www.bic.ahdb.org.uk.

“Despite the potential opportunities in potatoes, tremendous uncertainty still surrounds the outcome of Brexit negotiations,” said Mr Swales. “In any eventuality, it is important that businesses make proactive and strategic decisions to be fit for the future.”

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