In the middle of October, farms had 204 million kilos of food and food-industry potatoes in stock, of which food potatoes accounted for 163 million kilos. As the high harvest level compensated for the decreased potato area, total potato stocks were at the same level as in the autumn of 2019. There were two million kilos of food potatoes less in stock than in autumn 2019.
Overall, the summer of 2020 offered fairly good conditions for the growing of potatoes, while occasional heavy rains in August and during harvesting made it more difficult to harvest potatoes at the correct time. Furthermore, this autumn was unusually warm, and frost damage was rare.
“Increases in heavy rains set new requirements for the growing of potatoes. The fertility of the soil and the functioning of drainage are particularly important factors. Warm and wet autumns present other challenges, making it more difficult to cool potato stocks and dry harvests”, says Anna-Kaisa Jaakkonen, senior statistician at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).
Normal stock situation
Three quarters of the total volume of food potato stocks, or 124 million kilos, were in stocks located in the regions of ELY Centres of Ostrobothnia. Compared with the previous year, this volume is one million kilos smaller.
The total area of food and food-industry potatoes decreased by 342 hectares form the previous year on farms included in the statistical survey. Of this, the food potato area was 297 hectares. The potato area decreased especially in Ostrobothnia where the total area of food and food-industry potatoes was 160 hectares smaller than in the previous year. In Ostrobothnia and Northern Ostrobothnia, the main production areas for food potatoes, the harvest level increased to 33 tons per hectare, being slightly above Finland’s average harvest level of 32 tons per hectare.
Imports, exports and prices
In other parts of Europe, potato harvest levels were fairly normal, while drought reduced harvest levels in Western Europe. According to information provided by Finnish Customs, a total of 0.9 million kilos of food potatoes were imported into Finland in August, mainly from Denmark. According to the statistics of producer prices for agricultural products, the producer price increased from EUR 18.28 per 100 kilos in August to EUR 19.15 per 100 kilos in September. The potato quality was at the previous autumn’s level in September. Viruses may reduce the quality of potato stocks.
Various impact resulting from coronavirus
This year has been exceptional in many ways, also in potato markets. In spring, the use of peeled food potatoes decreased clearly in households due to coronavirus restrictions, while home cooking and the use of convenience food increased. Problems with the availability of workforce were lower than expected, with the more flexible opportunities to transfer non-Finnish workforce from strawberry harvesting to potato harvesting producing a positive impact.
Background to the statistics
The stock level survey was targeted at farms growing food and food-industry potatoes, whose cultivation area is at least five hectares.
These kinds of farms numbered 416, and their combined food and food-industry potato cultivation area amounted to 10,359 hectares. Compared with the previous year, the number of farms decreased by 32 farms, or 7%. The cultivation area decreased by 342 hectares, or 3%. The average food and food-industry potato cultivation area was 25 hectares per farm. Half of these farms are included in the statistics. The response rate was high at 94%.