Why will our oven chips be 5mm shorter this year?
Archant © 2018
Oven chips could be 5mm shorter this year – because of the baking hot Norfolk summer.
The parched conditions in major potato-growing areas like East Anglia earlier in the season has reduced the size and quality of this year’s crop.
But Norfolk farmer Tony Bambridge, who grows about 4,500 tonnes of potatoes a year for McCain, said his end customer had agreed to reduce its specifications this year, so more of the crop could go through its processing factory.
Mr Bambridge, managing director of potato specialists B&C Farming at Marsham, said: “I’m sure people walking down the street won’t appreciate this, but there is a minimum length for chips.
“But this year’s potato crop will be much smaller than usual, so some of the processing companies have agreed with their customers to change specifications, and McCain have shown real market leadership in doing that.
“They have communicated with their customers and their farmers to say: We have got a problem here and we have got to do something about it. We want to support the grower and to do that there is no point throwing good potatoes away.
“They have changed their specification. Rather than putting all the potatoes through a 45mm screen, so anything under 45mm does not go to the factory, they have dropped it to 40mm. So chips are going to be 5mm shorter.
“They have also said: Don’t throw out cracked potatoes, send them in and we will put extra defect removal facilities on the line, because we can probably still use three quarters of those. It is really important that we do that to make sure we have got enough product to keep the trade going.”
A McCain spokesperson said: “This year has seen exceptional weather which has affected all agricultural crops. We are working together with our growers in East Anglia and across the country to maximise their harvests and use as much of the crop as possible, whilst ensuring the quality of our products”.
Mr Bambridge said the UK potato crop could be down by a million tonnes this year – a trend which has also been replicated in other parts of Europe.
“We are normally about 5.6-5.8m tonnes in the UK, but a lot of the industry pundits think it could be 4.4-4.5m this year,” he said. “It’s the same in other countries. The Germans are 25pc down.”