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Jurgen Duthoo, Warnez:

"Expensive imported potatoes - imbalance between quality and prices is difficult to explain"

At Warnez Potatoes, there is currently a gradual shift towards imported potatoes. "Local is becoming a bit more challenging. For industrial potatoes, it's hard to quantify what's readily available, and ware potatoes are declining quickly, so we are increasingly switching to imports," says Jurgen Duthoo from the potato packaging company in Tielt.

"However, there is generally a difficult balance between the price expectations of the growers and the quality," he continues. "It's also the reason why many importers decide to continue with the 2023 harvest. Importing is expensive, but the potatoes evolve somewhat faster. Still, we see that quality in storage sometimes starts to drop, which has led us to switch to imported potatoes in some cases. However, the imbalance between quality and prices is difficult to explain."

Waiting for Spanish potatoes
"Even from the French batches, which normally have a nice visual presentation and are often better than other European origins this time of year, lesser quality is available. The high prices that come with it don't always make it easy to explain to consumers why the potatoes are expensive but at the same time of lower quality. Last year, prices were also high, but the quality was better. At that point, one can somewhat compensate for the other, but that's not the case now."

"Fortunately, it seems that Spanish potatoes are arriving soon. Our colleagues are currently in Spain visiting the fields, and it looks very promising. We expect to be able to replace some references with Spanish offerings in three weeks. That will provide some relief. It is traditionally a country with which we set up quite a few programs, and this year will be no different, but exactly how it will unfold remains to be seen."

On the demand side, things are still going well, Jurgen states. "Fry potatoes are still much in demand towards Southern and Eastern Europe, and we continue to receive requests for unwashed ware potatoes from many directions. In April, the market was quite slow for a while. I think this also had to do with the Easter period, but the last 10 days have seen quite a bit of activity again. That we will continue to work with high prices until the new harvest arrives seems, however, a certainty."

New harvest
When and how this harvest will be, on the other hand, is also still a big question mark. The wet ground continues to trouble many growers. "It can never really dry out for a long period. Now, the expectation is that this variability will continue until the end of April, after which better weather is predicted. But things remain uncertain. It's definitely not going smoothly, that much is clear. Here and there, some have started, but actually, we should have been further along. We are definitely experiencing delays. Yet, I expect nature to recover, which means the consequences for the new harvest will likely be minimal. It will all depend on the weather conditions we still face," Jurgen concludes.

For more information:
Jurgen Duthoo
Warnez Potatoes
Marialoopsesteenweg 2L
B-8700 – Tielt - Belgium
+32 051 400812
[email protected]

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