WHILE Maris Piper is still king with potato growers, they are being urged to use new varieties to help meet retail demand.

Increasingly, British growers are changing their planting regimes to include a larger area of emerging varieties to serve the fresh packing market, mainly at the behest of ‘on-contract’ support from supermarkets, with prices agreed in advance.

However, Maris Piper comfortably remains the most planted potato, with three times more area than the next most popular fresh packing variety.

The varieties that have gained the most area this season are fresh packing potatoes, Nectar and Melody, which increased their area by 1000 ha and 700 ha, respectively. Both are more recent introductions to the UK market than Estima, which decreased in area by an estimated 400 ha this season.

AHDB Potatoes market intelligence analyst, Amber Cottingham, said: “The packing market has seen another increase in area this season, with acreage intended for processing declining once more. This may be due to a reported increase in contracts offered in the packing market as retailers seek to reduce the financial fluctuations they encounter in meeting demand.

“There continues to be some changes in the top 10 list, as newer varieties designed to suit today’s needs – both at an agronomic and consumer level – continue to increase in popularity. Likewise, some of the biggest losers this year are older varieties, which are being replaced by newer alternatives.”

The figures were announced in the AHDB Potatoes ‘area by variety estimate’, released this week, which show that the area planted that is intended to supply the fresh retail sector has increased for the second year in a row to an estimated 38% of the total planted area in GB, while the area planted to serve the processing sector has decreased, also for the second year running, to 29%.

Ms Cottingham said: “Area changes can be closely linked to the price paid the previous season. For the packing sector, this has likely had an impact, as many prices were favourable during the 2015/16 and much of the 2016/17 season, up to the point when planting decisions would have been taking place.”