Potato processors report 17 percent fewer yearly output

The potato processing industry in Belgium expects about 17 percent fewer potatoes this season due to the extreme drought of the past few months. Expressing that expectation immediately pushed the free market price to the highest level in weeks: 250 euros per tonne. CEO Christophe Vermeulen of Belgapom tells employees to expect a turbulent potato year.

The North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) reported last week that the potato harvest in northwestern Europe is 7 to 10 percent lower. For our southern neighbors, the organization speaks of a decrease of 20 percent. Belgapom corrects this to about 17 percent on the basis of trial rollovers.

These trials also show that there are huge regional differences. ‘On average, around 37 tonnes per hectare will be harvested’, Vermeulen expects. In addition, he notes that this will be much lower in the west of the country.

Although there is no real panic among potato processors yet, uncertainty is beginning to arise.

“This is the fifth difficult potato year in a row. In combination with other challenges, such as the extremely high energy costs, it creates some uncertainty’, says the CEO of Belgapom. In addition, the availability of raw materials such as sunflower oil and CO2 is still not in order.

At the moment, Vermeulen sees that the members of Belgapom are still going forward in good spirits. Although he expects a tipping point in that early next year. “Then the contract prices for next year have to be negotiated. They will have to go up. After all, if processors want to establish the supply of potatoes, then growers must also be motivated to continue planting potatoes. The high costs of fertilizer, energy and conservation make alternatives such as wheat and corn more attractive.’

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