The heat and drought recorded this year have especially affected the harvest of the Canary "papa bonita" potato, as these conditions are favourable for the appearance of the Guatemalan potato moth.
Producers and the Government of the Canary Islands have signed an agreement to guarantee the marketing of ten thousand kilos of this product to overcome the difficulties of its harvest. The Councillor of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Government of the Canary Islands, Narvay Quintero, said that this is a "gourmet product characterised by excellence and quality, and which has a high added value."
The main buyers for this potato variety will be fruit and vegetable wholesalers and the tourist industry; a "very important" market, in the opinion of the Councillor, who has said that the cultivation of this type of potato has increased in Tenerife in recent years.
According to the crop's latest map made by the Council in 2016, a total of 2,358 hectares are devoted to the product's cultivation, 58% of which in the Canaries.
Narvay Quintero stated that the public company GMR will not only try to introduce the potatoes into new marketing channels, but will also guarantee payment "in a timely manner" to growers; something that, "unfortunately, large retail chains are not always able to deliver."
According to Quintero, such problems with the payment lead to harvesters having to suffer "serious issues to continue with their crops and thus obtain the corresponding income for the work done."
The Councillor has assured that the objective of the Government of the Canary Islands and of GMR is to work and collaborate with the Association of Harvesters of Papa Bonita to promote this crop and bring "the research work carried out by the Autonomous Government for the eradication of the Guatemalan moth to a good term in a not too distant future, as this is a severe problem that takes a toll on the crop's production and harvest.
The European Union banned the export of this product years ago due to the appearance of this insect, and this has caused economic difficulties for the potato harvesters in the Canary Islands.
In this regard, Narvay Quintero has pointed out that they are waiting for the EU to approve a protocol that is currently in the test phase to solve this problem, and which seeks to mitigate the damage that this moth causes to the potatoes.
The Councillor believes that this would make it possible for the potatoes to regain access to overseas markets, which could be considered a turning point for the harvesters.
The president of the Papa Bonita Producers Association, Vicente Luis Domínguez, has said that the signing of the agreement is a "small step" for the production of the Canary Islands "to continue moving forward."
Consequently, he has reported that the potato production will be marketed in different formats, packed in wooden and cardboard boxes, in order to make its sale more attractive.
According to Vicente Luis Domínguez, this signing will serve for agriculture to be promoted and for many growers to be able to continue their work and "not give up" because of the impact of the moth and prices.
Domínguez assured us that after signing this agreement, growers will be less dependent "on outside sources" and it is a first step to stop importing potatoes and to start exporting them, as in the past.
The representative of the producers has listed the problems encountered during the potato harvest and has highlighted the heat and drought, which have caused up to 80 percent of the production in many cases to be affected.
Concerning the moth, Domínguez stressed that it is necessary to "attack" it on several fronts and to collaborate through actions such as the implementation of a pheromone and the use of C02, as currently investigated by the Canary Islands Government.
Domínguez has stressed the need to promote the use of the pheromone by all growers to prevent the moth from moving massively to the fields where the product hasn't been used.
According to Domínguez, the pest is "very difficult to eradicate" because it attacks underground and it is costly to fight it with phytosanitary products, although he said that repellents work to get the moths to leave, even though they are not actually killed.
The agreement establishes that the public company GMR will be responsible for the commercial management, ordering, processing, logistics, distribution and collection of payments.