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France: UNPT discusses future of potato sector

The UNPT (National potato producers union) presented the results of a study carried out alongside FranceAgriMer on the prospectives of global exchange by 2025 on the 24th January during their 14th convention. Geoffrey d’Evry, their Vice President, explains that “Since 2010, we have seen a faster acceleration in the the offer than in the demand”. The aim is to find more outlets by 2025 for this increase in production. 

By 2025, potato consumption is expected to increase by 20%. This will be due to an increase in potato consumption in emerging and developing countries, notably in Asia and particularly in the processed potato sector. The study shows that countries in Central America, South East Asia and the Middle East will be unprofitable, to the advantage of the EU, North America, India and Egypt. 

This situation would allow France to double their exports and reduce losses on processed potatoes. Estimates see production in 2025 reaching 6.3 million tons, i.e. 1.1 million tons more than between 2011-2013. A 10-15,000 hectare increase is expected. 

In 2016 there was an increase in potato acreage and an increase in production which led to a disequilibrium on the market. Arnaud Delacour, President of the UNPT says that “In 2016, we were not far from a catastrophe!” The weather “luckily” balanced out the offer and demand. The message to producers is clear - this year, only plant when sure of outlets. 

The theme of this 14th UNPT convention was “An ecological and competitive potato … But at what price?” Guests took part in many discussions. Claudine Joly, farmer and member of France Nature Environnement spoke of society’s concerns about phytosanitary products and GMOs. She also warned that some members were “radicalised” by these subjects. She said that “We are aware that asking to go to zero phytosanitary products from one day to the next is impossible. Our action is to accompany farmers in changing their practice”. Claudine Joly also pointed her finger at the failed Ecophyto Plan which did not succeed in reducing phytosanitary products. Mathieu Lancry, organic potato producer and guest at the discussion said that “Even in organic production, we are dependent on toxic products such as copper to fight mildew.” Jean Paul Bordes, Head of Research and Development at Arvalis reminded guests of the concrete practices set up, such as selecting potato varieties that are tolerant to mildew. 

Alain Dequeker, Secretary General of the UNPT and potato producer, says that “The problem is that some varieties tolerant to mildew do not fulfil market expectations in terms of taste, appearance or conservation”. All of the guests also revealed a lack of communication with consumers. Alain Dequeker insisted that “For practices to change, everyone must be committed - producers, distributors, consumers”. 

Arnaud Delacour concluded that “We need to produce better and in a more ecological manner, but also produce more, if that is what the market demands.” He said that to do so, they need to make the most, like their worldwide competitors, of what biotechnology and the digital revolution has to offer society.
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