The European Commission has decided that the germ inhibitor chlorpropham (CIPC) is no longer allowed from January 1st this year.
The entire European potato sector is therefore facing a challenge.
"In Belgium, it is mainly potato processing and exports that are affected by the ban, since the measure targets the storage potatoes," say Romain Cools and Marc Van Herreweghe of Belgapom.
“Early potatoes are treated a little or not even treatment. Initially, it was important to gain knowledge of the use of alternative means.
Next, it is also important to prevent possible cross-contamination of potatoes that are stored or transported in installations that used to work with CIPC. "
Marc Van Herreweghe and Romain Cools
Whether the export position of the Belgian potato sector will come under pressure as a result of the ban is still uncertain, according to Marc and Romain. “The Dutch NAO has requested an exception, the feasibility of which is very limited and launched a study together with WUR. The export position of processed potatoes from the EU will in the short term be confronted with an increase in the cost price, because the alternatives are more expensive and this will influence the price at some point. The question is how exporting countries will respond to this ban in the EU. In North America, the authorisation of CIPC use was recently extended by 15 years and there is an MRL (maximum residue limits) of 30 ppm. In the EU it is now 10 ppm and in the best case scenario, a very low temporary MRL will apply to solve any cross-contamination. "
"Fresh market already working with alternatives"
“Belgapom conducted research into alternatives to CIPC about five years ago in cooperation with Flanders Food. The results have yielded a great deal of knowledge about alternative means and their effect on the varieties used for industrial processing in Belgium. Alternative methods are already being used for the fresh market, because CIPC was already under pressure there through the demands of the supermarkets,” Marc and Romain continue.
Together with NAO ( The Dutch Potato Organisation) and VAVI ( Association for the Potato Processing Industry), Belgapom has recently organised a workshop to draw attention to the use of alternative preservatives. To support the necessary investments, Flemish growers can apply for VLIF ( The Flemish Agricultural Investment Fund) support, thanks to the intervention of Belgapom.
“In the short term, many storage facilities will probably also have to be modernised in order to make use of alternative means possible. We are now awaiting further information from Europe regarding a temporary MRL and a protocol of sampling and cleaning that should allow growers, trade and processing to store and market potatoes without risk and provided that they do not use CIPC.
In any case, the sector will have to demonstrate the necessity of the MRL as well as its possible extension in the coming years through a broad package of analysis. The CIPC file is the first file to be picked up by the new Belgian branch organisation Belpotato, which maintains contacts with the Belgian government on behalf of the Belgian potato chain,” say Marc and Romain.
“There are currently three natural remedies that can be used as an alternative to CIPC and are: BIOX-M, Restrain, and 1.4. Sight based on 1.4 dimethylnaphthalene," says Marc and Romain.
“A product based on the peel of oranges will soon be available on the market. Together with the use of maleic hydrazine (MH), which during cultivation ensures a later start of the germination in storage and possibly mechanical cooling for longer storage, these agents provide possible alternatives. Although the sector still has to learn a lot from experience. In addition, these alternatives will also require more follow-up of the potatoes in storage than is the case for CIPC. The cost of storage will also become more expensive. These means can also not be used in every storage shed. This development will undoubtedly lead to the further professionalisation of the European potato chain. "
“It is clear that the European potato sector is facing a major challenge.
However, through cooperation at European level by various organisations and through the exchange of knowledge, work is being done on a future plan. For now, the European Commission has to wait for the decisions on the temporary MRL and a cleaning and sampling protocol to make the transition possible. Europe, for its part, has already asked to revise the 30 ppm world standard in the Codex Alimentarius so that the theme reaches the rest of the world. Although it is difficult for the sector to face increasing pressures in the EU, there is no turning back. Within the sector there is great confidence that, if we have a good framework, we succeed in realising the transition within the sector. And this transition starts with not using CIPC on the next potato harvest," Marc and Romain concluded.
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