Although the rains have interrupted progress over the last few days, the early potato harvest in southern Spain, which started earlier this year, is now steadily underway.
"It is still too early to know for sure, but it seems that this year there will be fewer kilos per hectare, compared to last year, mostly due to mildew problems this spring," says José Peláez, manager of Sevillana de Patatas.
"The demand for potatoes has been very high at the beginning of the season. It is true that the Horeca channel has practically disappeared due to the impact of COVID-19, but the increase of sales in the large retail sector is making up for it. Prices have so far been good, bearing in mind that the situation is not like last year's, when there was a great shortage of potatoes in the market. The prices of washed potatoes are between 6 and 8 cents higher than those of unwashed potatoes."
Also, the high demand for potatoes in the first weeks after the State of Alarm was declared in Spain and other European countries due to the coronavirus helped to further deplete the stocks of French potatoes for storage. "Sales in Spain, Italy and France went so quickly that we could barely cope," says Peláez.
Furthermore, in Spain, the consumption of new potatoes is gaining ground on that of potatoes for storage, which are cheaper, but also considerably inferior when it comes to their organoleptic qualities. "Five years ago, it was unthinkable for Spanish supermarkets to switch to new potatoes before July. This was something that supermarket chains in other European countries did. We are now even starting to see already significant volumes of Egyptian and Israeli new potatoes, which arrive before the Spanish."
90% of Sevillana de Patatas' business is focused on the potatoes intended for fresh consumption, while the remaining 10% is devoted to potatoes for processing. In addition to selling on the domestic market, the Andalusian company exports to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Italy, among other European countries.