Picture report: 29. Wilhelm Weuthen Potato Day

Germany: Despite difficult season there's a good mood in potato industry

During the 29th edition of the Wilhelm Weuthen potato day, the focus was on modern potato varieties and utilization techniques. A large number of German and Dutch breeding companies, machinery and packaging suppliers as well as other relevant players in the industry were present at the potato field close to the headquarters of Wilhelm Weuthen GmbH in Schwalmtal. Before the visitors were able to marvel at the many variety exhibitions and machine demonstrations, this year's prospects were presented.

Drought casts a shadow over the potato market
The supply situation will be the big theme of this year's season, said Ferdi Buffen, CEO of the company Weuthen and host of the day. A historically paltry crop is expected throughout the HAFPAL area. Only parts of southern Germany, Austria, Poland and south-eastern Europe saw reasonably normal growth.

The processing industry has created considerable capacity and will try to make the most of the situation by conserving raw materials and by a creative use of available potatoes. The scarce supplies of chips, puree and frozen products make very clear what the European potato industry is up against.

Even with seed potatoes, significantly below-average yields with good qualities and high yields in plantable sorting are expected. Early processing and dual-use grades are expected to be in high demand. Even the proven fries and chip varieties will be scarce.

In numbers, the entire main crop is predicted as follows:
Germany: 8.25 - 8.75 million tons
EU 5: 20.00 - 22.00 million tons

This would mean that the German potato industry has about 2 million tons less raw material available than on average in recent years, and for the HAFPAL belt, this number is 6 to 7 million tons.

Yellow-fleshed potatoes characterize German trade
The seed suppliers gathered on an independent field and presented a colourful and versatile exhibition that day. The current selection of varieties in the potato industry knows two noteworthy trends: On the one hand, people are constantly looking for modern varieties with a high resistance and a high yield per hectare. This is the case for all product groups in the potato sector (food, chips and potato chips). This trend is closely related to the steady growth of organic potatoes. This product group is experiencing strong growth in Germany at the moment.

On the other hand, the German market has a strong preference for yellow varieties, say the seed suppliers. This also affects all three product groups and is regarded as a trend that will continue in the coming years. In the course of this development, however, there is also room for various premium varieties such as the red flesh varieties. However, this category of goods is primarily referred to as a niche market, with a limited market share. As a result, there is a general expectation that this segment will tend to remain at the same level in the coming years.

Storage, processing and packaging
What is the potato market without suitable storage and processing techniques? This stage in the value chain certainly received commensurate attention at the Weuthen Potato Day. Suppliers of sorting and packaging machines had their stands, but this was also the case for manufacturers of wooden crates. This last storage technology is still gaining in importance over the outflow on the ground, as the boxes lead to few losses and thus to higher returns. Since the boxes can also be stacked on top of each other, storage space is fully utilized, ensuring optimum efficiency.

Finally, the focus was on the packaging of the potatoes as well. Also in the potato field, sustainable packaging materials are currently a sensitive topic. Among other things, smaller packaging units and the use of sustainable materials are being tested. The time-honoured plastic nets are disappearing more and more in favour of paper bags.

These robust and particularly sustainable packaging materials are nowadays often available as suitable for 1.5 and 2 kgs at German and Western European food retailers. Alternatively, there are small boxes made of cardboard as well. The latter packaging solution is occasionally found in the supermarket, but especially visible in smaller fruit and vegetable shops and farm shops, which are nevertheless still an important market segment in Germany.

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