The Belgian potato-processing industry continued to grow in 2011 for its entire product segment, as shown by the annual production data published by Belgapom, the Belgian federation of the potato trade and processing sector.
This growth is above all translated into an ever stronger export position: thus in 2011 our country became the world’s largest exporter of frozen potato products, leaving the Netherlands, Canada and the USA behind it.
What is remarkable is that the share of export to third (non-EU) countries has increased sharply. Fast economic growth in South America, South Africa and Asia also resulted in a sharp increase in the demand for frozen potato products on those markets.
The Belgian potato-processing sector distinguishes itself from its competitors by the fact that above all family growth businesses are active in this sector that have a strong connection with the other links in the chain. Partly as a result of this, the Belgian potato market has its own dynamism, whereby use is made both of a free market and of production contracts.
This part of the free potato market is characterised by great volatility of the potato prices. The failed harvest of 2010 – 2011 in Central and Eastern Europe led to record prices on the free market in the first half of 2011 which also had an impact on the export position of the Belgian companies.
However it was the exceptionally high returns of the Belgian potato harvest of 2011 – 2012 that overturned the free market, which also led to new opportunities on the global market as the initial export figures for 2012 illustrate.
The Belgian potato-processing industry still has further growth opportunities, partly in view of global growth and the ensuing increase in potato consumption. The import of potato products from the Western European production area of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Northern France is a supplement to local production. Since the UN International Year of the Potato in 2008, numerous countries in Africa and Asia have massively started growing and eating potatoes.
The Belgian companies that are predominantly family businesses are faced with the challenge of further perpetuating this growth. Continuity and sustainability of the supply of raw materials are therefore being focussed on. Attention to new cultivation and storage techniques and varieties, innovation in the area of logistics and cooperation within the entire chain are pivotal for this.
Belgapom, the Belgian federation of the potato trade and processing sector, in cooperation with the European federations EUPPA and Food Drink Europe, also wants to focus on the role of potato export in bilateral trade agreements between the EU and third countries.
World Potato Congress lifetime achievement award for Guy and Luc Van den Broeke:
The triennial World Potato Congress will pitch its tent in Edinburgh from 27 to 30 May of this year. This congress brings together almost 800 potato professionals from the entire potato chain from all over the world to take a closer look at the latest development and trends with regard to cultivation, processing and marketing.
During this edition, Guy and Luc Van den Broeke, who with their company Lutosa formed the basis for the growth of Belgian potato-processing, will receive a ‘lifetime achievement’ award.