Because of the Corona crisis, potato imports became necessary. Ruedi Fischer, President of the potato producers, however, explicitly warns against an expansion of the potato area in talks with Schweizer Bauer. Such an expansion would lead to overproduction.
Schweizer Bauer: The demand for potatoes is very good. Can it be satisfied with domestic potatoes?
Ruedi Fischer: No, Swisspatat has applied to the Federal Office for Agriculture for an additional import quota of 8000 tonnes of table potatoes, to run from 1 April. Due to the corona crisis, additional quantities are needed at short notice. Procurement will probably not be easy. The creation of an emergency stock, cooking at home, no more shopping or tourism are reasons why potato sales have increased in the meantime. However, the market for industrial goods has already shifted from a demand to a supply overhang.
Which varieties are currently particularly sought after?
We have to distinguish between table potatoes and processed potatoes. As already mentioned, sales of table potatoes, both floury and waxy, are currently above average.
Where are the problems?
There could be a very difficult situation with processed potatoes, especially with French fries potatoes. Restaurants, fast-food chains, ski resorts and other large consumers of French fries have had to close down as a result of the Federal Council's decision. This will result in large shortfalls in sales. It is now important that, where possible, industrial varieties are transferred to the food channel. We also believe that imports of processed potatoes must be stopped.
Can the potato acreage be expanded this year?
It would send out quite the wrong signal to extend the area under cultivation on the basis of the current situation. Even with a slightly above-average harvest in the autumn, we would feel the negative effects of this.
Isn't there then simply a threat of more imports?
The additional current imports have to do with the Corona exception situation. As soon as our first Swiss early potatoes are ready, we must switch back to domestic produce as quickly as possible. Production has agreed to the additional quota in favour of a secure supply in the current situation. In return, however, we now expect a clear commitment from the trade to the domestic harvest. Unfortunately, I do not currently assume that potato consumption will increase significantly in the medium term due to the corona crisis.
What would you advise farmers who are considering entering potato production?
That they should definitely not do so.
Source: Schweizer Bauer