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Chips are down for Dutch potato sector as demand for french fries plummets amid foodservice closures

As restaurants, snack bars and fast food outlets remain on lockdown to contain the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Dutch out-of-home and foodservice markets have seen a sudden and steep decline in demand for fries, FoodingredientsFirst reports.

The majority of potatoes grown in the Netherlands are prepared by processors such as McCain, Lamb Weston, Aviko and Farm Frites. Amid the pandemic, the value of potatoes has dropped. Industry executives tell FoodIngredientsFirst how potato growers are facing huge losses and a dire forecast of a one million metric ton surplus of french fries.

The value of potatoes has suddenly declined from 15 to 20 cents per kilo to basically zero. This means a negative impact of 150 to 200 million euros (US$160 to 213 million). Potatoes are stuck now at the growers’ potato barns and have no destination anymore, Andre Hoogendijk, Director-General of Dutch agricultural organization Brancheorganisatie (BO) Akkerbouw explains.

“We work on using as many potatoes as possibly, preferably by human consumption. Also, considering the unusual circumstances, we’ve asked the Dutch government for financial aid. These potatoes were grown in 2019 and all costs have already been made. Growers have no way to mitigate these costs. However, a form of financial aid can help the growers get through these difficult circumstances, Hoogendijk continues.

As a result of restaurant lockdowns, restrictions and major changes in eating behavior in these unprecedented times, the consumption of french fries is falling rapidly in a country noted for its potato cultivation. Neighboring Belgium is also feeling the impact COVID-19 is having on its potato sector.

“We hope that people will eat more potatoes, not just fries but all kinds, and reduce the large surplus of potatoes. Also, we hope that people will donate potato-based meals to people working in vital industries [such as hospitals].”

Read the full report in FoodingredientsFirst.com here. Report written by Gaynor Selby.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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