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Cesare Balsamo (

Italy: The supply of potatoes will have to be integrated by foreign produce

"It always seems like when there is little produce, demand grows. This is the case for potatoes - demand has been lively for a few weeks now and it will increase in winter. This means we will be forced to import potatoes from abroad already in February-March 2014."

This is according to Cesare Balsamo, chairman of the Cooperative in Castelnuovo Scrivia. He explained that, because of a rainy spring, planting was 45 days late with respect to the previous campaign, and therefore harvesting was delayed and yields were 30% less.

"We expect to import goods next year in order to guarantee the supplies. In particular, we will buy produce from France as it is very abundant. We are not really convinced by the Egyptian produce though."

Potato harvesting.

"In 2013, planting started at the end of April and ended at the beginning of May, whereas usually it starts during the first two weeks of March. Harvesting (which usually starts at the end of July) was postponed to mid-August and it hasn't finished yet, not even for potatoes destined for processing. There are still many tubers, but almost all of them are medium-small."

In addition to the fresh produce, the Cooperative also produces tubers for the industry. About this, Balsamo reveals that, "up until two or three years ago, we managed to produce 15,000 tons, though we realised that producing for the industry often causes a lot of problems."

Above and below: the potato packaging line.

The main sales channel for the Cooperative is domestic retailing: "This means we can work throughout the year and not only a few months a year. This is why we have divided our production areas and we buy potatoes from Sicily, Campania, Veneto and in the Bologna area, from both partners and third parties. However, this year the produce is lacking in these areas too. Nonetheless, at the moment sales are excellent."

The Cooperative has 15 permanent employees and another 15 seasonal ones during harvesting. In addition, it supports partners during sowing, earthing up and harvesting with its own machinery.

Onion harvesting line.

Regarding onions, the golden local variety stands out. It comes originally from the area between the Castelnuovo Scrivia and Pontecurone municipalities and it has a high quality. White onions are also cultivated, as they are very popular with consumers thanks to their various uses in the kitchen.

The Aspropat Cooperative also has a 18,000 sq m warehouse in Castelnuovo Scrivia, 6,000 sq m of which are covered. Here there are packaging lines from vertbags to jumbos. The produce is either stocked in cold storage units or with ethylene, a system which has been used this year for the first time on 50% of the produce and which will be used on onions in the future. also has another structure with cold storage units in the same municipality. The storage capability of the two warehouses is of 6,000 tons.

"We mainly sell our products under the brand, but this year we will also supply the combined ORTOQUI brand together with one of our clients (Coop)," concludes Balsamo.

The numbers- 2013
Partners: 180
Fresh potatoes: 200 hectares
Potatoes for the industry: 50 hectares
Onions: 30 hectares

Potatoes and onions packaged in 2012: around 10,000 tons (same quantity expected for 2013)

Lorenza Bassi
S.P. 90 x Molino dei Torti 36
15053 Castelnuovo Scrivia (AL)
Cell.: (+39) 331 6071266

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