NEPG reports North-western Europe's highest potato production in the last 10 years.
This season, the quality of the stored product is a challenge.
The NEPG (Northwestern European Potato Growers) published the total harvest of five major potato producing countries in North-western Europe: Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain.
(Click to enlarge)
NEPG potato production harvest 2011 (excluding seed and starch)
The total potato production is 26.6 million tons, 11.4% more than last year and above the 10-year average. This increase is mainly due to higher yields per hectare and a small increase in acreage. Currently prices are under pressure because farmers sell potatoes that are less suitable for storage. However, it is expected there will be demand for good quality potatoes throughout the season because its availability is limited.
Belgium reports that a large portion of the stored potatoes in different regions have significant quality problems. Tens of thousands of tons had to be cleared earlier than anticipated, or are sold as animal feed. The main reasons are: wet rot, early sprouting, low dry matter content and secondary growth (glass). High temperatures during the harvest, trouble to and bring the temperature down in storage and late blight are the main causes. The frying quality is not optimal. In other countries, the storage is mostly under control, but similar storage problems have been reported in northern France and south-west Netherlands.
The current low price is due to oversupply by growers who do not want to wait for the winter. However, the NEPG sees opportunities: The 2011/12 season would be a full month longer given the early start, high activity in the manufacturing industry especially due to high demand for processed products (e.g. french fries) from outside the EU. And also a high level of rejections at the processors means that more material will be needed. Large quantities are sold as animal feed or have completely rotted away while less over-sized seed potatoes will be exported.
The potato futures for delivery in April 2012 slowly start trading higher, with a large number of open contracts. Some processors already offer € 70 - € 80 per tonne for delivery late spring. Based on this the NEPG advices its growers to monitor the quality of the stored product closely.
At the last NEPG meeting in Harrogate, the Board Bia - The Irish Food Board - joined the meeting. In Ireland, the supply by potato growers is sufficient as the harvest was good. Ireland grows approx. 10.000 ha potatoes and import Maris Piper and Markies for french fries, early Mediterranean potatoes from Cyprus and Italy and "baby" potatoes from France and Israel. Potatoes for storage are grown in Ireland itself, preferably Irish varieties such as Rooster or are imported from storage. Ireland has only a limited production capacity of potato chips.
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