Many different qualities and volumes in new season

“Potato pool result of changing weather”

As of this year’s harvest, the potato pool of RTL Patat has started, the first potato company to do so in Belgium. This season also shows that there’s a need for a similar way of trading. The sector is plagued by severe drought, but Remy Tanghe expects the main harvest to be good.

Late last year, potato company RTL Patat announced they were starting a potato pool. A potato pool is quite common in the Netherlands, but the company from West-Flanders is the first to start this in Belgium. “Normally, a grower wants to sell their product at as high a price as possible, and a buyer wants to buy it is cheaply as possibly. With the pool we want to look after the interests of our growers. It’s a different way of trading. The growers who have joined us are rewarded with a percentage of the payout price, with which we guarantee them we’ll do everything to achieve the highest possible price,” says Remy Tanghe. “A potato pool is desired especially considering the changing and ever more extreme weather conditions. The past seasons we experienced that growers could hardly or not at all supply according to their contract multiple times, which caused much stress. A potato pool relieves some of that stress. Besides, we want to continue modernising as a trader. The processing industry is still growing considerably, and we as trader see a role in that for ourselves to offer even more service.”

Remy, Rik and Fons Tanghe.

Currently, about ten per cent of RTL Patat’s growers have joined the pool. It mostly concerns growers from Belgium and France.To participate in the pool, a grower must have at least five hectares of potato cultivation or a yield of 200 tonnes nett. Currently, it’s primarily chips varieties that have entered the pool, but export varieties such as Melody and Asterix are also represented. Remy says he’s satisfied with the start up of the pool. He expects more growers to join in the coming years. “Besides partially spreading the risk, growers benefit from being part of a wider range regarding sales, so that there’s more chance of success. Additionally, we as trader can offer an added value because we can often places batches at a higher market value.” According to him, customers also responded positively to the pool. Chips factories can now buy larger volumes at once. Besides, it’s now possible to respond to actual demand for certain products more easily and more quickly, and the delivery term is more flexible. 

Different volumes and qualities due to drought
When asked what the trader expects of the new season, he says he’s quite optimistic despite imminent shortages. “It’s been very dry, even worse so in Flanders compared to Walloon,” Remy says mid-August. He expects that the average yields will therefore not be met this season. “Especially compared to the north and centre of the Netherlands, where the situation is different. This also translates into the futures market, which is low-key in Belgium.” RTL Patat is personally not very active in the early cultivation areas, where yields are 20 to 35 per cent lower in some regions. “Bintje is also affected by sprouting in some areas. There will probably be many different batches with different qualities.”

Remy says that the world of potato trading is becoming ever smaller. Chips are now sent all over the world, and the field is also growing on the side of supply. “Especially in the more expensive years, such as last year, when much was supplied by Poland, and early potatoes also came from Bordeaux. You can see there’s not really an actually local product anymore. People are looking across the borders more and more. We personally do some import from Spain when asked, but it’s not our specialisation.” RTL Patat primarily exports a lot to West Africa and Southern Europe. Eastern Europe is also an important destination, although this was a bit trickier last year. “The production in Eastern Europe is not a very significant threat yet, but I expect we’ll have to seriously keep this in mind in coming years.” Located in an area where three-quarters of the Belgian chips factories are, the industry is naturally an important sales channel. He doesn’t expect many problems on that side this season, considering the industries are mostly covered by means of contracts. “The Netherlands could be a bit of a competitor in the field of export. They generally have slightly better harvests.”

The changing weather conditions remain a major threat to the potato sector. That is also partially the reason why the potato company started a potato pool. “With a contract like this, the grower isn’t financially responsible when there’s a shortage. It gives them more security,” Remy explains. “I don’t rule out other types of contracts to cover large risks for both growers and users in future.”

More information:
RTL Patat
Remy Tanghe

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