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German potatoes left out to dry

Israel and Egypt provide potatoes for the German market on a large scale. For cultivation of potatoes in these desert countries, they need the scarcest resource there is: water. German farmers decreased the potatoes productions although the production of potatoes in Germany needs less water.

Sand, everywhere, just sand and scorching heat in the deserts where they grow potatoes. Israel and Egypt are among the main exporters of early potatoes to Germany. To make the Sahara or the Negev fertile, farmers need one thing the most: water. And water is the scarcest and most valuable commodity of the desert. Egyptian farmers use 407 litres of water on average. For the irrigation valuable groundwater is used, pumped up out of the desert.

And water is essential for the people living there, and for the potato exporters. The availability of the valuable resource water is decreasing in this region, a region that is known for its conflicts. 

“The system is just wrong,” states Gerald Wehde from the association Bioland. Because the limited available water flows, almost directly, to Europe. Where potatoes can be produced with almost no irrigation. 

And German farmers can’t sell their potatoes. Because in the beginning of the summer, the market is flooded with the imported new potatoes, and in that period there are no German early potatoes available. The German potatoes that are available have been stored for a few months after the fall harvest and don’t look as appealing as the desert potatoes. Those potatoes are flawless, round with a perfect skin, clearly in another league to the stored German potato.

The market wants to sell these aesthetically pleasing products and therefore the German grown potatoes are declining. “A few years ago we couldn’t even sell all our potatoes,” states Wehde, representative of many organic farmers. “We can supply the entire German market without any problems,” he ensures. But therefore the farmers need guarantees and contracts.

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