Chip shop closures have left 188,000 tonnes of surplus potatoes, says farm analyst

The closure of chip shops due to the coronavirus lockdown has created a surplus of 188,576 tonnes of

The closure of chip shops due to the coronavirus lockdown has created a surplus of 188,576 tonnes of potatoes, said AHDB analyst David Eudall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

The closure of chip shops due to the coronavirus lockdown has created a surplus of 188,576 tonnes of potatoes, said a farm analyst.

David Eudall, head of arable market specialists for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), said the last three weeks have seen a “sudden and drastic closure of the vast majority of demand” for chipping and bagged potatoes for foodservice markets.

With the chip-shop market being mostly closed, he has calculated the impact on potato tonnages destined for this market across the country.

“At the end of January, we forecast that on-farm stocks of the bags/fresh chipping sector stood at 308,889 tonnes,” he said.

“Using the average January to March draw-down rate from recent years, we estimated that 20,052 tonnes of potatoes is taken from stores on a weekly basis during this period.

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“As such, if we take a six-week total, to take us from the end of January to Mid-March (pre-lockdown) we can estimate that 120,313 tonnes of material was taken from farmer stores.

“This would leave a balance at mid-March of 188,576 tonnes. This is the tonnage that we estimate is now facing the issue of a closure of the majority of chip shops and lost demand.”

Last week, farming leaders said while some potato sectors have seen a massive increase in demand, others have been severely impacted by widespread closures within the food service industry – with loss of demand from chip shops having a “major impact” on the bagging sector.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Chip shop and McDonald’s closures leave tonnes of potatoes without a marketThe National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said while some growers have successfully redirected 25kg bags to satisfy high demand at local grocery stores, others are being encouraged to contact potato packing businesses about selling in bulk into the mainstream retail market. The union is asking retailers to relax specifications in order to take stocks that were originally destined for the food service sector.

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Norfolk potato specialist Tony Bambridge, managing director of B&C Farming in Marsham, said he was confident that the supply chain would adapt to divert potatoes into retail products – meanwhile his farm is one of many which has created “mini supply chains” to sell surplus potatoes from their farm gates.

Another example is at Buxton Potato Company based in Buxton, near Aylsham, where manager Tim Briscoe has set up an isolated box shop and is making early-morning deliveries to his most vulnerable or isolated neighbours to keep vital food supplies flowing into people’s homes during the coronavirus lockdown.

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