The fall in planted area the past season in Britain has been paired with a long-term rationalisation in the number of registered growers, AHDB Potatoes says in its annual Market Intelligence report for 2018/19.
This season, the number of registered growers fell to 1,751 – a reduction of no less than 715 growers since 2000. Meanwhile, the average area per grower has been steadily rising during this period.
Consolidation within the industry has led to a minority of growers planting an increasing proportion of the GB potato crop. In 2018, 17% of registered growers planted 100 ha or more of potatoes. This compares with just 5% of growers in 2003.
Meanwhile, the number of smaller scale growers has declined, with only 830 registered growers planting between 3 and 29 ha in 2018, compared with 2,249 in 2003.
While there are many factors underlying the reduction in the number of smaller scale growers, economies of scale is a factor that cannot be ignored, according to AHDB Potatoes.
The high costs associated with potato-related machinery is likely to reduce the attractiveness for small operations. At the same time, this is likely to encourage the expansion of medium-to-large-scale operations to gain the maximum benefit from investments in highly specialised machinery.