The 2011 potato growing season in Switzerland was a special one. "It was summer in the spring, it was fall in the summer and it was summer in the fall" is how the season was described by Ruedi Fischer, president of the Vereinigung der Schweizer Kartoffelproduzenten (VKSP), which translates to "Association of Swiss Potato Producers" at the association's annual meeting.
Initially, the summer drought pointed towards a small potato harvest. But in July came the rains and in a short time the potatoes caught up.
The result is a large harvest of 511.800 tonnes (preliminary figures). This is 91.000 tonnes more than in the previous year. It is the second largest harvest on record, only in 2009 was the Swiss potato harvest larger with 521.500 tonnes.
The problem for the Swiss farmers is that this is an amount well beyond what they can sell on the market. Still, potato prices did not drop, since the excess potatoes did not enter the market, but were used for animal feed and for the production of biogas. To finance this intervention (since the government does no longer pay to take excess potatoes of the market as of 2009) producers had to pay Sfr 1.5 per 100 kg edible potatoes into a fund.
So far 66.450 tons of potatoes have been diverted, at a cost of just below Sfr 10 million (11 million USD). Potato stocks are high, so in the next few weeks more potatoes need to be sorted out, according to Ernst Koenig, managing director of Swisspatat, the trade association of the Swiss potato industry.
Swisspatat President Andreas Ruegger reminded the producers that the potato production needs to be brought under control. The sector can hardly afford the financial burden of another record harvest. That's why potato producers are currently considering to tighten the regulations. According to Ruedi Fischer in future only producers with a production contract should receive money from the fund.
The 2011 potato acreage in Switzerland is estimated at 11179 hectares, which is an increase of 3% over 2010. The average yield was 45.8 tons/ha. Main potato varieties in Switzerland are Agria (2442 ha), Charlotte (1759 ha), Victoria (788 hectares).
Switzerland imported 2451 tons of seed potatoes, 9.912 tons of table potatoes and 9,912 tons of potatoes for processing.
Source: Vereinigung der Schweizer Kartoffelproduzenten (VKSP)
Potato Supply Chain