Potato growing in Estonia has seen a three-fold decline in the past decade, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday. Farmers are blaming the unprofitability of growing the tuber – which only makes money one year out of every three, they say – as well as a lack of Russian demand, competition from producers in central Europe and, in the past year at least, the effects of the pandemic.
State agency Statistics Estonia reports that 3,639 ha (a little under 9,000 acres) of fields were under potato cultivation in 2020, a fall of 32 percent just on the preceding year, while the decline longer-term is much greater.
One potato grower from Simuna, Lääne-Viru County, said: "In two or three years out of ten, this activity has turned a profit. In other years, it has had to be subsidized at the expense of other activities."
The farmer Alo Põldmaa, told AK that he sells his produce via a for-profit cooperative, the Viljandi County-based Koorti Kartul. The collapse of the Russian market and a preference on the part of the domestic market to by from central Europe were both factors.
Janek Lass of Koorti Kartul said that while in many previous years the area under potato cultivation had been reduced intentionally, this year that would not be the case. "Everything still depends on the market situation and demand, but this price policy and market situation has been especially painful in the last year."
Other crops have also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing restrictions which have kept restaurants largely closed or semi-closed for months. "I'm not even talking about prices here. If people buy washed carrots in the store today, for example, they don't really understand at the checkout whether they got a good deal or not," Lass added.