Global changes are on the horizon for potatoes

The economic world interaction is a fact that affects all the sectors, and in the potato sector far-reaching changes are already being detected

The most outstanding one is the increase in demand for potatoes for industry or processing. Globally, a boom of between 4 and 5% has been recorded.

The diet in Asian countries is beginning to change, moving towards more European models, which include a larger amount of industrial products with high potato content, or simply, the consumption of chips or crisps is on the increase. According to Francisco Moya, the Manager of Négonor from Vitalis Réseau, he affirms that “the consumption dynamics being experienced in these countries is a highly relevant fact because an increase per capita of just one kilo per inhabitant in Asian countries where the population reaches several hundred million means a very important global increase in demand.”

This situation has not gone unnoticed by the processing industry, and in Europe the construction of many factories is being streamlined in Holland, Belgium, France or Germany. The interesting point to be taken into account is that, for the suitable operation of these industries, the minimum volume of product needed is around 500,000 tonnes.

What are the implications of this new situation?

The first of them lies in the fact that the contracts that the farmers establish with industry are more reasonable on an agronomical level, with some simpler specifications documents (references to dry matter, yield, varieties, etc.) than any commitment that is maintained for fresh potatoes. “This could mean, and, in fact, it already is meaning that many farmers are opting for planting potatoes for industry. Added to this situation is the fact that the retailers are becoming increasingly more demanding regarding the quality and the visual appearance of the fresh produce on their supermarket shelves, and the fresh potato operators are experiencing true ordeals due to produce being returned. Potatoes have gone from the ugly character in the movie on the shelves to becoming a ‘beautiful fruit’; and it is neither one thing nor the other,” different sources from the sector assert.

The future evolution of the French market

France is one of the important European references when talking about potatoes, as it produces an average of between 6 and 7 million tonnes; half of this volume goes to export, both for fresh and processed produce.

The French model has been developed based on the long-term storage capacity of potatoes in order to supply the market all year round. However, the strength of the French producers, which lies in putting a good quality product on the market in the second part of the campaign, seems to be suffering as on these dates the market is turning to other sources, such as Spain or Israel. “This factor means the French operators are losing sight of a significant volume of potatoes. For all these reasons, the French potato sector, firmly organised on a national scale, intends to get ahead of this trend, which could mean an important movement by farmers towards the processed market. If this were to happen, the potential of farmers who worked for the fresh market could decrease drastically.”

Another situation that is shaping up in Europe and, therefore, affecting the French market, is linked to the Ukraine war, as the lack of cereal all over the world suggests that hectares of potato plantations could be turned over to cereal crops, that is to say, cereal is being considered as clear competition for the potato crop.

And finally, this evolution that the market is experiencing will also affect the seed potato companies, which are keeping their eagle eyes on the production sector. “These companies produce the seed potatoes that the companies are potentially going to plant. If we decrease the quota, it will mean that the seed potatoes they have produced will not have any commercial outlet,” the French executive concludes.

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