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Jan Van Luchene, Bruwier Potatoes:

"The potato market is seemingly at an impasse"

Those in the potato market are playing their cards close to their chests, explains Jan Van Luchene from the Belgian company Bruwier Potatoes. "The market has been trending upward significantly since the New Year, and in a rapidly rising market, sellers hold off on selling their free potatoes. Exports are also at a standstill due to high prices. The result seems to be a sort of impasse in the market," he begins.

Belgian potatoes had an unusual fall. Due to heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding, the harvest remained in the fields for an extended period. "Not everything has been harvested yet, and won't be anymore. Losses in Belgium are estimated at around seven percent, slightly more in Flanders than in Wallonia. There were quite a few storage problems, but these have since been resolved. These days, there are only good quality potatoes in storage."

"However, that means people are waiting to sell. On the one hand, they know part of the harvest is lost. On the other, they look outside and see it's still wet. Next month, everyone should be back in the fields to start work, but one begins to wonder if that will be possible. We're not there yet, but thoughts are already moving in that direction. Last year was the same, so prices spiked considerably. People think it could happen again this year, so they're waiting to see what happens," says Jan.

"The market has been sharply rising since the New Year. Typically, as long as that continues, there are no sellers. The only difference from last year is that yields were meager then. So, there were only a few free potatoes. This year, despite the losses, yields have been excellent, resulting in a considerable amount of free potatoes. Those factors benefit those with free potatoes, hence the current stalemate."

The current potato market is, therefore, very quiet. "There's virtually zero export demand. Many Dutch exporters tell me that, too. Many destinations drop out at such price levels. In the Balkans, they turn to Eastern Europe. Yes, that quality is lower, but those potatoes are cheaper. People are more quickly satisfied with inferior quality if prices differ so much. Like last year, there's very little trade," Jan continues.

He dare not predict what will happen in the coming months. "It's very hard to say. Normally, after a few wet days, there's a greater chance of drier weather, but we don't know. The weather has been against us since last March, and everyone's a bit fed up with it. It could improve, though, and then the market might pick up." Whether imported potatoes will have an effect is also hard to say. "We're not importers, but I can imagine that, given the current high prices, imports from Southern Europe or Egypt could become a very attractive alternative for certain markets. We'll have to wait and see how things go," Jan concludes.

For more information:
Jan Van Luchene
Bruwier Potatoes
1A Galge Street
8790, Waregem, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0) 56 61 33 33

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