This year, Batati LLC is harvesting its sixth Swiss sweet potato crop. Currently, about 25% of the area is harvested. "The conditions during planting were ideal. However, unlike in previous years, the temperatures in summer were warm but did not reach the temperature totals of previous years," says co-managing director Simon van der Veer.
For this reason, the harvest started about 10 days later than it did in 2019: "As far as cultivation techniques are concerned, not much has changed, except for the planting density. A little more plants were planted per hectare than last year, because we are aiming for a medium caliber of 200-800gr/tuber. Oversized tubers can only be marketed to a limited extent and at lower prices," explains van der Veer.
Freshly harvested Swiss sweet potatoes.
Increased wireworm infestation damage
The yields of the harvested fields are appealing, but outliers at the top and bottom are still missing. What is noticeable is the increased damage caused by wireworms. These pests love sweet potatoes even more than normal potatoes. "How long we will be able to deliver depends on the coming weeks and harvest volumes," says Christian Hurni, co-founder and managing director of Batati. It is not yet possible to make an exact statement.
Significant capacity expansion
The Batati company is particularly proud of the new location with a new processing hall. The hall houses the new warehouse with a capacity of about 1200 tons of sweet potatoes and the processing technology consisting of optical sorting and automatic filling and weighing technology. "We wanted to take the next step towards efficient and rational processing under one roof. We succeeded," says Christian Hurni, who is responsible for the technology and the daily business.
Insight into Batati LLC's new processing hall
Consolidation in domestic sweet potato cultivation
In Switzerland, a certain consolidation in cultivation can be observed. Certain producers are exiting due to risks or lack of market access, while other producers are increasing production. This is also the case with the producers for Batati. In addition to the two company founders Christian Hurni and Simon van der Veer, nine other companies produce sweet potatoes for Batati.
Most of them have expanded their cultivation for the current season. However, it can be stated that sales are still increasing rather than decreasing. Whether and how the Corona pandemic will affect sales cannot yet be assessed. Van der Veer: "When the lockdown and border closures were implemented this spring, our warehouses were already empty."
Right: The sweet potatoes are temporarily stored in wooden boxes.
Difficult starting position for processed goods
The marketing of the second-class sweet potatoes is still difficult. Processed products are even more in competition with cheaper foreign products. "It is therefore necessary to find a balance between preventing food wastage and at the same time making the use of such goods profitable. We don't do it just for the fun of it," Van der Veer outlines.
Another special feature this year: Batati LLC is one of the finalists of the CeresAward: www.ceresaward.de