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The chips are down: Belgium counts the cost of betting all on the potato

A row over a huge potato processing plant has exposed flaws in the country’s reliance on a single crop. In Frameries, campaigners call for farmers to diversify, writes Daniel Boffey from Frameries in a news story published by The Guardian.

For three years, residents in Frameries, a town in French-speaking Hainaut in the south-west of Belgium, have battled against the proposed construction of a €300m (£258m) factory, which it is said would increase Belgian production of processed potato products by a third. Belgium is already the world’s largest exporter of pre-fried potato products.

The residents’ campaign group, Nature sans Friture or Nature Without Frying, has accused the company behind the proposed factory – Clarebout, the largest producer of frozen potato products in Europe – of being noise and air polluters, and poor employers. The claims are denied.

The pandemic was a disaster for potato farmers in Belgium last year, and farmers found they had no other buyer when the international market collapsed due to the closure of hospitality around the world. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of potatoes were left to pile up in warehouses. The state was forced by the farmers’ plight to buy them up to give away to food banks.

“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” implored Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union, Belgapom, at the height of the crisis. Others, however, are now looking at the bigger picture – and taking the view that the fightback in Frameries should be the start of something bigger.

Clarebout has said it believes there are further “opportunities for growth worldwide” through investment in Frameries, which offers “the presence of cultivators who would like to grow potatoes, or who would like to convert to this type of cultivation”.

Source: The Guardian. Read the full story here

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