In 2015, almost 4 million tonnes of potatoes were processed into refrigerated and frozen fries, puree, crisps, pre-boiled potatoes, flakes and granule. With the 3,970,595 tonnes of potatoes processed, the sector recorded a 4.4% growth compared to 2014. According to the annual review published by Belgapom, investments in the Belgian potato trade and processing sector continued to increase, with € 167,207,415 (+44.7%); a record figure. With the prospect of planned expansion in the coming years, the sector is unlikely to see this trend reversed any time soon.
Growth is mostly taking place in the production of frozen (+5.3%) and chilled fries (+2%), but the volume of other products (such as potato croquettes, crisps, flakes and other products) also increased (+1.3%). After years of growth in the employment figures, there appears to be some stagnation in 2015. The trend towards more extensive automation is thereby confirmed.
This growth of the Belgian potato processing industry is taking place in the framework of the increased global demand for processed potatoes. Potatoes are increasingly regarded as a basic food. The fact that this source of carbohydrates, vitamin C and potassium can be grown with lower use of land and water than cereals and rice is also making them popular in countries where this was not previously the case.
Potato production in developing countries is growing rapidly and with it the demand for convenient products. Thus, the Chinese government announced in early 2015 that potatoes are gaining more and more ground on rice and noodles; a trend which can also be observed in India.
The Belgian potato industry is supported on a rich tradition, thanks to the country’s chippy culture. Belgium is located at the heart of Europe’s potato growing regions and has many competent potato growers who produce high quality potatoes for processing into French fries, potato crisps and other products.
The Belgian potato chain is also formed by numerous family businesses devoted to trade, supply and processing; a dynamic that will again be showcased from 27 to 29 November 2016 at Interpom Firsts, the international potato trade fair, held in Kortrijk XPO. A picture of this traditional and yet young sector within the Belgian agro-food chain was immortalised by Belgapom in the book “De aardappel in België, land van de friet” (“Potatoes in Belgium, the land of chips”, which was released last year.
The growth of the Belgian potato chain ensures that not only the processing industry, but also producers and suppliers of goods and services can all further develop as a cluster. To achieve this, the project “Together for sustainable growth”, launched by Belgapom, will play a key role. This project primarily seeks to conduct the entire potato chain towards sustainable growth.
To this end, Belgapom, together with other partners in the chain and with Belgian research centres, has launched some interesting projects, such as the Reskia project (for low residue germination inhibition), Bintje Plus (a Phythophthora resistant Bintje) and Ipot (a web application that allows you to monitor the growth of potatoes via satellite).