"No 'normal' for German growers"


31 August 2022
The Weuthen Kartoffeltag, an annual event in a German field close to the headquarters of organiser, Wilhelm Weuthen GmbH & Co, gave those in the sector the first chance to meet there and talk face-to-face in two years, having been curtailed in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

AFTER two years away, numerous exhibitors and visitors from the German and international potato sector gathered at the event location in Schwalmtal-Waldniel. Visitors were informed about the latest techniques and varieties and Dutch traders and suppliers were also present.

Managing Director Ferdi Buffen said: "The potato industry has been in crisis mode for four years now. Normal does not seem to exist anymore. The still existing corona pandemic has faded into the background and since February 24, the Ukraine conflict has been dominating events, causing the commodity, energy, agricultural and thus also the potato markets to ride a roller coaster.

"Although the agricultural sector has invested a lot in infrastructure, state-of-the-art technology and irrigation capacity in recent years, we end up depending on the weather."

He said Parat when the Maurer early potato day took place in the Palatinate region in June, warehouses wer still full with potatoes from the 2021 harvest 2021 and many had been concerned about overproduction, but now northwestern Europe was facing new challenges from persistent drought conditions. 

"The year 2022 will go down in the history books alongside the well-known drought years of 1976, 2003 and 2018 and, after the floods of the previous year, the agricultural sector in particular is feeling what climate change means with the current situation," he said.

With growers and suppliers also being concerned about the availability of energy, transport capacity, fertiliser, personnel and purchasing power for our products are driving the industry, Ferdi questioned some of the current European agricultural policy and said politicians needed to use more common sense. 

"With all these factors of uncertainty, it is important to act wisely and prudently and, above all, to allow all parties in the value chain to benefit," he said, adding taht several thousand tons of potatoes harvested in 2021- in good quality - were still being processed.

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Contrary to expectations from the fall of 2021, the potato area for 2022 was expanded by about 2% in the important growing areas of Germany and significantly more French fry varieties were grown instead of table, seed and starch varieties in some areas.

In an interview with Fresh Plaza, he said: "Shipment of early table potatoes in Germany was initially sluggish. Imports from Israel, Egypt and southern Europe were preferred to German products, despite all the food retailers' vows of loyalty to regional production. All regions were then able to supply themselves by the beginning of July, so that market access for supra-regional shipments, especially from the Palatinate, was difficult.

"This led to early varieties being taken from the field and stored for quality reasons. We were able to place a few dual-use varieties in processing. The Palatinate has lost 35% sales in the last 5 years. We need to take countermeasures here. We will try to do this with very attractive industrial contracts for July 2023. From mid-September, we will back this up with concrete contract offers."

Producer prices for table early potatoes have been at a high level in recent months. In addition to the regional packing market, the Rhineland also supplied the agreed programs in Benelux in recent weeks.

The proven early varieties Premiere and Amora are fully harvested. The variety Francis has also already been marketed and is showing good results in the field and in production.

Sources: Fresh Plaza / Agrico

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