Price of chips soars after rain

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The Independent Online
THE COST of potatoes has more than doubled because of last year's wet weather.

The British Potato Council (BPC) said yesterday that the average farm gate cost of a tonne of spuds had risen from pounds 78 to pounds 167 in 12 months. Much of last year's harvest was wrecked by heavy rainfall at crucial times of the year.

The price rise will prompt fears among millions of fish-and-chips aficionados that one of the country's favourite meals may no longer be a bargain.

A spokesman for the BPC said: "Chip shops like to use Maris Pipers, which last year cost anything from pounds 35 to pounds 90 a tonne as they left the farm. This year a tonne costs anything between pounds 80 and pounds 230 depending on the quality.

"It was a wet spring and many potatoes were planted later on than usual. There was a lot of rain during the growing season, and the low temperatures also caused problems for farmers." The total potato yield last year was 6.2 million tonnes compared with 6.8 million tonnes in 1997, said the BPC.

Anne Kirk, general secretary of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, said the price rise was a problem for the country's 8,500 fish-and-chip shops, but denied there was a crisis. She said: "Chip shop owners will have realised the price of potatoes has gone up and one or two have already raised their own prices."

But she added: "Although the prices at the moment are high, they are not nearly as high asin 1995 when a bag of potatoes cost around pounds 13."

Fish-and-chip shops use 10 per cent of UK potato yield, and customers eat 30 million portions of chips a year. The price rises come just weeks before National Chip Week, which begins on 15 February.