'Sky high' prices in Belgium


08 August 2023
Packer says product shortage and previous dry season have impacted on retail.

'SKY high' prices and a shortage of good-quality produce are being felt within the potato market in Belgium, according to one supplier. 

Jurgen Duthoo of Warnez Potatoes in Belgium recently said in an interview with Fresh Plaza: "Imported potatoes are very pricey, and the new crop is extremely problematic. It goes back to the summer of 2022. The entire season's been hard." 

Summer 2022 was very dry so the potatoes evolved faster in storage and there was a need to switch to imports as early as May, he said. 

"Israel and Egypt were in the market then, but they, too, had quality issues. We were, therefore, paying a lot for good quality potatoes. It was the same later with Spain and Portugal, where the drought caused lower yields and lack of calibers."

Costs have had to be passed on in order to make a profit. 

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"But, it's hard to pass everything on towards retail. The raw material is practically twice as expensive, but explaining that to your customers is tough. Consumers won't pay double for their potatoes either. Prices did rise slightly, but unfortunately, you can't pass everything on," said Jurgen.

New crops in Belgium and Germany do not look currently look promising, he added. "The next step would be Germany, but considering their situation, we can already see that those won't be cheaper either. Also, Belgium's growing year has begun, but everyone knows conditions here aren't ideal. Cold and wet spells in March and April meant growers couldn't work in their fields until May."

"The seed potatoes also have quite a few issues, partly due to the aforementioned 2022 summer conditions when they were grubbed. Plus, growers had the seed potatoes ready to plant but couldn't get into the field. Those were thus slowly sprouting, which had to be removed before they could go into the ground. That doesn't do the quality any good."

He said intensive irrigation was needed to soften the soil and, despite recent showers, field development is erratic. "Some already have nice growth, but others have no tubers at all, or the plants are even partially rotting. It's hard to quantify, but there are undeniably concerns."

Source: Fresh Plaza  Photo: Warnez Potatoes


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