Mixed and uncertain future for French potato, garlic, onion and shallot sectors

“The various professionals of the sector are drawing a mixed post-harvest assessment and planning a rather uncertain sales campaign,” according to the French Federation of Traders in potatoes, garlic, onions, shallots and wholesale vegetables (FEDEPOM).

Potato plants: low supply
“The production of certified seedlings in France fell by almost 11% this year (-60,000 tons). The area cultivated in 2023 was 21,000 ha, compared with 23,500 ha in 2022. This situation can be explained by a combination of two factors: arbitration by collectors on the basis of varieties, following last year's unsold merchandise, and a halt or sharp drop in acreage by certain growers.

As for yields, they were more or less in line with the average of the last 5 years, with a production of almost 525,000 tons and a higher proportion of large calibers. The area available for planting was therefore even smaller, a situation exacerbated by the high proportion of vegetation refusals. Despite the late planting and good growing conditions, the few aphid flights were spread throughout the vegetation period, and despite the efforts of all growers, the virus rate was high, so a lot of merchandise was and will be downgraded to a high class B rate. Other disease, pest and bacterial risks were well under control.

Additionally, the latest withdrawals of plant protection products have increased the technical risks and the ability to secure sanitary quality. The monitoring of seedlings during storage will remain a key element of success in delivering quality certified seedlings. It is in this context that growers and collectors will begin discussions on the areas to be planted with seedlings in 2024.”

Ware potatoes: a year marked by weather hazards
In France, surfaces have increased to reach 156,940 h (+2.9%) this year, along with yields (42.3 t/ha (+ 7%)) and volumes (6,643,000 tons, +10%). This increase was driven by a growing demand from processing outlets (frozen fries, potato chips).

In some regions, weather hazards have impacted potato quality and shelf life. “In terms of available volumes, there will be a significant difference between agricultural yield and marketable yield. In our packing stations, waste rates are 3 to 4 points higher than last year. We will also have to pay close attention to the conservation quality in the fridges.”

The recent rainfall has severely hampered the harvest of the last remaining hectares (the impact of flooding in northern France is not known yet).

Potatoes remain an inexpensive staple food. The demand on the French market came later than last year due to the high temperatures until mid-October, but is estimated to be stable. “There is a good level of activity on the market, thanks to the numerous promotional actions in French supermarkets,” according to FEDEPOM. Professionals are also confident about the sustained export demand and the growing needs of the processing industry.

Garlic: a year of contrasts
The production campaign ended with a sharp drop in marketable volumes (-20%). This lack of volume and the increase in production costs have impacted prices, which went up 20%.
Both sanitary quality and taste are on target this year. “But the volumes of 1st category garlic will be lower from January onwards, due to the summer storms which somewhat disrupted harvesting and drying in certain production basins, leading producers and marketers to carry out sometimes significant sorting discrepancies. The garlic that was downgraded for visual defects still kept its taste and quality. This downgraded garlic represents almost a quarter of the 2023 harvest, so outlets have been difficult to find. In view of this situation, all categories of garlic (I and II) are available for sale.”

Onions: a confident sector
“The weather has been ideal for onion crops this year. With an increase in yellow onion acreage and good yields, the French production is 15% higher than last year. The onions’ sanitary quality has been impacted by unusually high fusariosis pressure and unsatisfactory harvesting conditions. The campaign is now drawing to a close and is above the average of the last 10 years. The French supply seems satisfactory, and prices are relatively high at the start of this marketing season, which is promising for the second half of the campaign. As for red onions, the sustained demand raises concern about a shortage at the end of the season.”

Shallots: fear of shortage early in the season
The surface areas cultivated were stable this year, with average to very good yields depending on the region. In Brittany, strong pressure from botrytis and fusariosis are causing concerns about availability early in the season. The price of “clean” shallot batches will rise with a demand that should increase at the end of the year.

For more information:
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