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Over abundant potato harvest in France
Daniel Ryckmans, agricultural technician at the Fiwap (wallon potato sector) says that “Mother Nature has been generous : potato production has increased 10-15% in Western Europe, even 20% in some regions”. On top of this, Benelux, France, Germany and the UK planted 5-15% more potatoes, so there is extra volume which is not even harvested.
Why are the potatoes remaining in the fields?
Too expensive : As the harvest was abundant, the warehouses are already full. Potato prices are particularly low at the moment, €1.50/100kg, “they are so low that it costs more to pick the potatoes” says Daniel Ryckmans.
Quality problems : The summer and autumn were humid, leading to an increased risk of rotting. “The least good fields are not harvested” explains the Fiwap’s specialist. Also, the potatoes are lacking dry matter due to the rain. “It is the number 1 criteria for crisp and chip production, because if the potato has an insufficient level of dry matter, the chip is greasy”.
No other market : The potato producers cannot send more of their volume to the chip market as it is already at 100% of it’s capacity. Other European countries have a quota for “starch” potatoes, France doesn't.
Biogas is not a source for overflow stock either, “in Germany they have 3,000 to 4,000 biogas units. Here, they are insufficient to take in the tens of thousands of extra tons.”
Animal feeding could have been an outlet as potatoes are excellent for cattle, but fodder harvest, be it maize or hay, was also good and the sector does not need potatoes.
Exportation is not a solution : “We are exporting more than a normal year, because the prices are extremely low” says Daniel Ryckmans, “but not enough to bring prices back up”.
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