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Leon Kranenburg:

“Precision agriculture results in a better product of even quality”

June entered the records as a dry month. On average, there wasn’t enough rain in the Netherlands, and towards the end of the month, spraying bans were implemented in some parts of the country. It was dry in other parts of Europe as well. For most growers, that’s negative, but for the potato market, a longer period of dry weather in Europe results in a glimmer of hope for a better season. Despite worries, Leon Kranenburg remains optimistic and sees opportunities for Dutch potatoes.


Leon Kranenburg in a potato field.

“Last season, prices were very bad, and although you might expect that would offer room for export, that market was also disappointing,” Leon looks back on the past season. Although it’s still too early in June to say anything about next season, Leon does know something has to change for the market to improve when we speak to him in the final week of June. “The area in Europe remained the same, that’s worrisome,” he says. “If the season turns out to be normal that wouldn’t be positive. We’d have too much volume in Europe.” In the final days of June and the first of July, the sun is high, and temperatures quickly rise. It wasn’t just dry in the Netherlands, it also hasn’t rained in other parts of Europe for weeks. If the dry weather lasts, that would affect the development of new potatoes.

The company, just a stone’s throw away from the A44 and A4 motorways, has an area of 150 hectares of conventional production. Thirty-five hectares of this are planted with potatoes. In 2012, Kranenburg took over sorting company Fa. H.J. v.d. Berg & Zn. This resulted in the company moving to its location in Nieuw-Vennep. “We work with permanent partners, agents and growers, from who we buy the potatoes,” Leon says. The company only trades in Dutch potatoes that are bought in Dutch coastal provinces and Flevoland.


Leon Kranenburg inspects the first tubers under the plant.

Eastern European and French competition
The biggest threat to the potato production in the Netherlands is the growing production in Eastern Europe and France, Leon explains. “The growing production combined with decreasing consumption of table potatoes in the Netherlands,” he clarifies. The growers in Eastern Europe and France are getting better and better at producing potatoes, and considerable investments are made in production. “France has a good climate and virgin soils. External quality is also better because of this,” Leon continues. He has noticed the French potato is also gaining ground in the Netherlands, in part because of its good appearance. “Dutch consumers often buy based on appearance.” That consumer preference is also reflected in the emerging varieties in Dutch productions: these mostly have a smooth peel.

Besides it becoming more difficult on the domestic market, the export market is under pressure as well. In Germany, consumers choose local products, so there’s less room to import. In Eastern Europe, domestic production is growing, so that market is also gradually decreasing. “Those countries will be self-supporting in a few years,” Leon says. “The Russian boycott hit the Dutch sector quite hard as well. A lot of potatoes used to be sent there, but that market won’t be returning.”


In the final week of June the potatoes are still too small.

Industry is buying less as well. “Chips factories buy 80 to 85 per cent based on contracts, so that there are fewer fluctuations on the market,” he explains. Because of these contract productions, industry is less active on the free market. Despite all of these developments putting pressure on the potato sector, Leon isn’t pessimistic. “Potatoes will always be needed. If you can offer a good quality and you serve your customers well, you’ll have a future.”

Promotion sustainable production
“Twenty years ago, we from the potato sector forgot to keep our product appealing,” Leon says, acknowledging blame. Although campaigns such as Power to the Pieper are a positive development, it’s not easy to catch up with competition from other products. “Nutritional values and sustainability of potatoes are much better than of, for example, rice, but who would know that?”

According to Leon, the potato production is becoming increasingly more sustainable. “The conventional production is shifting closer and closer towards organic production.” In conventional production, fewer means and better techniques are used. “Precision agriculture is getting bigger, so that a better-looking product of more even quality can be harvested. This benefits the entire supply chain.” For Kranenburg, the precision agriculture is mostly expressed in developments in the field of soil. Drones cannot be used over the fields because of air traffic from Schiphol Airport. “With scanners attached to the backs of tractors, for example, you can analyse the fields for disease pressures,” Leon explains.

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Leon Kranenburg

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