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    Kees van Arendonk
    Last week, Kees van Arendonk, chair of the Dutch Potato Association (NAO) spoke about the Dutch and Belgian french Fry industry on the occasion of the opening of the trading year of the Dutch potato markets (Goes). He highlighted the increasing marketshare of the French fry manufacturers in The Netherlands and Belgium in the global market of frozen french fries.

    Indeed, Belgium keeps increasing their production rapidly and passed the 3 million tonnes of potatoes processed last year, while the french fries production in the Netherlands also set another record last season of almost 3.5 million ton.

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    Kees van Arendonk mentioned the following striking statistic: if you would draw a circle with a radius of 500 km around Utrecht (Let’s say the center of the Netherlands for those not from the area) you get an area that processes 10 million tonnes of potatoes each year. To put that figure into perspective: The total amount of potatoes processed into french fries in the entire United States is also about 10 million tons!

    Although the Dutch and the Belgians like their fries, there is no way they can eat all these french fries themselves: about 90% is exported.

    Which raises the question: where do they go?

    Not all french fries produced in that area travel far, but increasingly they go to all corners of the world.

    As Kees van Arendonk said: “I find it an amazing achievement that the [Dutch and Belgian] french fry industry can export to places such as Australia and South America and be able to compete there with local suppliers“.

    That brings me to the other topic discussed at this event in great length: the large potato harvest and the consequently low potato price this season. That first trading day in Goes, potatoes for french fries were quoted at 3,25 - 4,25 euro/100kg (4.5 - 6 USD/100 kg, 2.2 - 3 USD/cwt). Compare that to last year, when the quoted price on the first day was 16,00 - 18,00 euro.

    Keep in mind that most of the potatoes for processing in the Netherlands and Belgium are sold on contracts, so the current market price is NOT the price the processors pay. But it is the price they pay for any extra potatoes they process beyond their contracts. Furthermore, due to the dry spring the potatoes are generally large, which makes it good potatoes to process into french fries with high yield. So processing they are: all indications suggest the french fry factories are spitting out french fries at near record speeds.

    Whether they will keep doing that for the entire season remains to be seen: it has been mentioned that due to wet weather in some areas the storability of some potato lots may not be that great.

    Either way, if you are in one of those far away countries competing against the Dutch and Belgian french fry manufacturers: beware... they might have some extra fries to sell! Their market share in the global french fry market is unlikely to go down this season....