Romain Cools, Belgapom:

Belgium: “Smaller harvest affects position of EU potatoes on world market”

Belgapom estimates that this year’s potato crop will be at least 20% smaller than last year’s. “Last year, however, was extremely good, so we’re talking about two extremes,” says Belgapom Secretary Romain Cools.

“The drop has three causes. First, the designated acreage was lower, due to lower price ranges in the 2010/11 season. Second, the weather was just awful. We were hoping that the summer would boost the May crop, but this wasn’t the case. There was an unusual amount of rain in the West of Flanders and the North of France. Third, the harvest was tough, again because of heavy rains. A lot of acres could not be cleared.”

“This greatly affected potato prices on the open market. Last year these were 50 Euro per barrel, now we’re in the 250-Euro range. We have to go back in history a long way before we encounter those prices. The only positive thing we can say about it, is that the free potato market works: the prices do exactly what you’d expect them to do. What we have to keep doing, however, is look at the position of the European potato on the global market. These extraordinary prices, not just of potatoes but of raw materials as well, can really affect the evolution of their performance. There are plenty of players out there ready to step in and supply our markets.

Romain Cools thinks potato consumption might not be so great this year either. “Consumers and foodservices might cut back on potatoes. People will turn to alternatives like pasta or rice. The situation is tense and I don’t expect price ranges to change much. They certainly won’t go down. I would like to remind people though, that traditionally, the potato season always turns out different than you think.”

For more information:
Romain Cools
T +32 (0)9 339 12 49

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