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"Calendar agriculture completely pointless"

"Last year, planting was also done very late, but ultimately, we ended up with good yields"

The wet spring is currently causing a lot of unrest among potato growers. In the Netherlands and Belgium, some areas are already talking about a disaster, as a lot of produce has not yet been planted. It's understandable that there are concerns, says Jan Van Luchene of Bruwier Potatoes, but the trader indicates that there is no reason for panic regarding the new harvest. "Last year we also saw very late planting, but eventually, we ended up with beautiful yields. The fact that we couldn't harvest them all at the time is another story, but a lot depends on the coming months," he states.

"At this moment, the estimate is that about 50 percent has been planted in Belgium," Jan continues. "Yet, the weather forecast for the coming days and weeks seems to be heading in the right direction for now. I hope it stays that way, because the forecasts are as variable as the weather itself these days. It's hard to make predictions. Last year, most planting took place between May 20 and 25, which was already considered very late. So, it says little about the yields. We are even later now, but what was planted in April has had perfect potato weather up until today. The same scenario could unfold for the potatoes being planted this week. It really depends on what the weather will do. It's too early for definitive conclusions."

But it's clear that it needs to start drying up gradually, he states. "You could still plant by mid-June, but then it's a matter of watching the end date. That's the problem. In any case, we're already in the second half of October before the potatoes are in storage. That's an increased risk. But then again, we could have a dry October. However, given what happened last year with rainfall, people are understandably a bit scared. If planting does succeed, and we get 'potato weather', the risk is that the plants could still be very green by mid-October. Then they have to be killed off to utilize their full potential, because everything needs to be harvested on time. There are many ifs and buts, but I certainly wouldn't talk about a disaster yet."

Calendar agriculture
The concept of calendar agriculture undoubtedly puts a lot of pressure on, as it led the Farmers' Union to advocate for the end of calendar agriculture at an earlier stage, because it's 'no longer sustainable,' according to them. Jan fully agrees with this view. "I don't understand why there is even a discussion about this. Whoever thought of this really needs to find a different industry. I can understand trying to guide the cultivation a bit, but the last 4 years have shown that each year presents a different scenario. What's the point of setting everything in advance? Utterly pointless. These decisions are often made by people who are not from the agriculture sector. We need to listen more to the agriculture sector itself, so a somewhat realistic decision can be made."

Limited free potatoes
Looking towards the future, there are concerns, but looking at the current market situation, there are also some challenges. "There are few free potatoes available at the moment. There seemed to be enough, but because the early potatoes will be later, we will have to work with the old harvest for a longer period. You see that the stock is becoming a bit tight and prices are rising quickly. It's somewhat a copy of last season."

"The intention was to start fully with the new early potatoes by week 30," Jan explains. "There might already be something available by that time, but to have the full industry running on it, that will be too early. There will be potatoes, but it's in nobody's interest to harvest plots in week 30 that only yield 25 tons per hectare. So, everything will be a bit delayed. This is also a copy of last year. The early potatoes will be used a bit longer, after which around October, normally a Fontane month, everything comes at once. Last year, you saw that there was too little capacity to process everything, and we run a bit of that risk again this year."

For more information:
Jan Van Luchene
Bruwier Potatoes
Galgestraat 1A
B-8790 Waregem, Belgium
+32 56 61 33 33
[email protected]

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