“This is my 30th season at Agrico, but I have never experienced something like this.” That is how yesterday, Thursday 8 November, Jan van Hoogen opened the annual varieties and seedlings presentation at the Agrico Research's breeding and research station in Bant. The Managing Director of Agrico was referring to the driest summer and autumn since 1976. "This is having a major impact on the potato market this season. Yields will be much lower in many European countries and the quantity of seed potatoes available for export will also be considerably less”, he warned the visitors.
Series of unique varieties
The variety show in Bant provided more firsts. Here Agrico presented her 'next generation potatoes'. A series of varieties that are unique in their kind, thanks to their natural resistance to the main potato disease, Phytophthora. Agrico presented a wonderful series of complementary spotlight varieties with excellent consumption qualities. These are suitable for conventional and organic cultivation. “For a sustainable future worldwide”, says Van Hoogen. No other potato merchant in the world has at this moment advanced this far with the development of Phytophthora resistant varieties. Dutch and foreign interested parties are converging in large numbers on Bant to learn more about Agrico’s new talented potato varieties: Alouette, Carolus, Twinner, Twister, Levante, Nofy and the 'potential talents' for 2019: Ardeche, Beyonce and Jacky.
New to the variety list
This year three new Agrico varieties where included on the Dutch Variety List. All three newcomers belong to the 'next generation’ varieties:
- Ardeche; a relatively early, Phytophthora resistant (in foliage and tuber) starch variety with resistance to potato cyst nematodes and wart disease. Also suitable for flakes.
- Nofy; a Phytophthora resistant (in foliage and tuber) starch variety with a good starch yield per hectare.
- Twister; a quite early table potato for organic and conventional cultivation with a good yield and Phytophthora resistant in foliage and tuber.
Every year Agrico highlights a country at the variety show. This year that theme country is Ukraine. In terms of potato production volume, Ukraine ranks 5th in the world after China, India, Russia and the United States. The most widely grown potato varieties are: Riviera, Arizona, Evolution, Picasso, Rudolph, Constance, Esmee and Arsenal. Traditionally, in Ukraine, the vast majority of potatoes are grown for their own consumption, specifically by farmers and families at their dacha’s. They often use outdated cultivation technology and seed potatoes of very poor quality, resulting in low yields. The average potato yield of Ukraine is 16 tons per hectare, while the average in the EU countries is 26 to 35 tonnes per hectare.
At the same time, a sector of commercial potato growers is developing in Ukraine. The acreage that is being cultivated by commercial potato growers has gradually grown to between 60,000 and 65,000 hectares. That is about 5% of the total area of agricultural land in Ukraine. This development of potato production is driven by the emergence of supermarkets and the growth of the retail trade. In addition, there is mainly a processing industry for chips.
Growth ambitions of Agrico
Jan van Hoogen emphasised in his speech the growth ambitions of Agrico. “We want to grow in acreage, grow in sales and grow in quality.” The Managing Director sees plenty of opportunities for this. "Just look at the results from past seasons in which we have experienced record years in terms of sales in tons.' The 'next generation potatoes' play a key role in Agrico's vision for the future, stated Managing Director Jan van Hoogen. “This is where we are heading to with potato cultivation in the next decades: robust Phytophthora resistant varieties that can be grown sustainably. Not only organically but also conventionally, with minimal use of chemicals.”
New quality centre
To give shape to that vision for the future, the company has invested heavily in its core activities. This spring Agrico opened the new and, in terms of size, doubled greenhouse complex of the Agrico Research breeding station in Bant. And on 15 February 2019 Agrico is opening her new quality centre, right behind the head office in Emmeloord, the Netherlands. In the quality centre, inspections will be carried out on all batches of potatoes using modern technologies. “That gives more control and insight on the internal quality and vitality of our potatoes”, says Van Hoogen.