Hospitality venues could see a rise in the price of potatoes after last week's heatwave potentially damaged the quality of some crop, a supplier has warned.
Austen Dack, marketing manager of Isle of Ely Produce in Cambridgeshire, which supplies over two million bags of potatoes into fish and chip shops and restaurants, said the performance of later second earlies and true maincrop varieties of potato was "very much in the balance".
He added: "Mature unirrigated crops have died back very quickly recently due to the high temperatures."
But he said potatoes that had matured or were close to maturity before the onset of extreme weather last week were "generally considered to be good".
The East of England produces roughly 25% of potatoes that are distributed to the foodservice sector, Dack said.
He warned rainfall could also cause damage, because this would disrupt the dry matter of the potato, which determines how well it fries. "The public might have to get used to a smaller chip, the chip shop might have to get used to a mixed bag and pay[ing] a bit more. It's not quite crisis, but it's not looking brilliant either."
Mark Bond, operations director at the 120-year-old M.Manze Pie & Mash, which has three London restaurants, said the price of potatoes typically doubled in a standard summer. "Seasonally, the price fluctuates [but] when it gets really hot, it's not good for anybody," he said.
Bond added: "Our ales have gone up to ten pound, our meat's gone up six times since January, so we've certainly been hit by the inflation this year. Flour has gone up this year – grease, meat, marge – basically everything we do."
Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, expressed concern about the impact of a rise in potato prices on fish and chip shops, which have already been hit by a 35% UK tariff on Russian whitefish imports which came into force on 19 July.
Crook said: "30% to 40% of the fillets used in fish and chips shops are from Russian vessels directly supplied into the UK, so anything that hasn't cleared customs in Russia or Belarus will attract that tariff. It's not a good time [for] all the fish and chips shops."
Rachel Dobson, managing director of hospitality buying specialist Lynx Purchasing, added: "There's likely to be a big pinch point in the autumn when operators start planning winter and Christmas menus, and want to plan orders for processed products such as chips and roast potatoes.
"As always, our advice to keep talking to suppliers and to place orders as early as possible."
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