Last year, there was a notable decrease in the planted area of both seed and ware potatoes.

The combination of a wet spring and a dry summer meant we all anticipated a reduction in yields. Additionally, growers encountered exceptionally difficult harvest conditions, resulting in some potatoes not being lifted due to fields being too wet.

Consequently, the past year has proven to be arduous for the industry. With diminished stocks available and not enough potatoes being grown to meet UK market demand, market prices are now experiencing fluctuations. These difficulties have not been confined solely to Great Britain; similar outcomes have been observed in Europe.

The Scottish Farmer: Some of the potato boxes stored in the shed ready from the next harvest Ref:RH070324133 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer...Some of the potato boxes stored in the shed ready from the next harvest Ref:RH070324133 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer...

Weather remains one of the many challenges confronting growers, and we will have to see what this year has to bring. With the wettest February on record in some areas we can anticipate that some people will be late planting.

The ongoing loss of essential active ingredients, crucial for managing diseases, pests, and weeds, are other huge challenges the industry has to face.

The announcement in January by HSE that approval for Mancozeb may be withdrawn in the UK, following its withdrawal in Europe, adds to the growing list of active ingredients under threat.

It is imperative that we move away from examining each active ingredient in isolation; such an approach is incompatible with the dynamics of our environment and risks breeding resistance.

The potato industry has written to the Secretary of State at DEFRA regarding the potential ramifications of losing mancozeb on the industry. We have requested a comprehensive examination of all relevant data and a temporary halt on the decision.

This request is endorsed by GB Potatoes, the NFU, NFU Scotland, the Potato Processors’ Association, the British Potato Trade Association, the Fresh Potato Suppliers Association, the Association of Independent Potato Consultants, Scottish Agronomy, and the James Hutton Institute.

In collaboration with other trade and crop associations representing various sectors in the fresh produce supply chain, GB Potatoes contributed to a collective submission to the DEFRA consultation on contractual relationships in the fresh produce supply chain.

While each fresh produce crop has its unique characteristics, production techniques, and distribution networks requiring customised strategies to address fairness in contracts effectively, we have united with other associations to address shared concerns spanning all fresh produce supply chains.

With a board of 10 directors, including three based in Scotland – Archie Gibson, Euan Grewar, and Matthew Steel – GB Potatoes serves as a unifying platform, bringing together the entire supply chain to collectively tackle the challenges facing the industry.

Our aim is to ensure a resilient and sustainable future for potato production in Great Britain, safeguarding its longevity and prosperity for future generations.

This year, we proudly join the sponsors of Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP), a pioneering primary school-based growing initiative. What started as one of the first projects of its kind has now blossomed into the largest, engaging more than 6m children in discovering the origins of potatoes, their growth process, and the associated health benefits.

GYOP’s hands-on approach makes it an ideal learning experience. Open to all primary schools across England, Scotland, and Wales, GYOP aims to distribute 8000 potato growing kits to schools nationwide, alongside our existing sponsors, as we remain committed to this important educational endeavour.

Seed potatoes are integral to potato production, exerting influence over genetic traits, health, and performance in subsequent ware crops. Nonetheless, mounting concerns regarding the profitability of seed production, alongside escalating production costs, have prompted some growers to move out of seed production.

In recognition of the distinctive challenges and within the seed sector, GB Potatoes is initiating the formation of a Seed Consultation Group. This group will spearhead initiatives tailored to the seed agenda, providing recommendations for implementation by the GB Potatoes board. By fostering collaboration with industry partners, the Seed Consultation Group seeks to collectively address the sector’s pressing challenges.