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Opinion: ‘To plant or not to plant potatoes’ in the Netherlands in 2021

In reality, there is no indication at this point in time that most arable farmers in the Netherlands are opting to plant much of a smaller potato area in 2021, writes industry analyst Haijo Dodde in a recently published article in the Dutch agriculture magazine Nieuwe Oogst. We publish a translated version of the article here.

Dodde writes that the North-Western European Potato Growers organization (NEPG) recently called on potato growers in Europe to plant 15 percent fewer potatoes. The question now is to what extent growers are following this advice. In the Netherlands there are indications that the total planted potato area will shrink slightly, and for arable farmers to temporarily opt to plant more wheat in 2021.

LTO director Hendrik Jan ten Cate assumes that NEPG’s plea for an area shrinkage is mainly aimed at so called “free potatoes” or non-cotracted potatoes. Growing for the free market is, according to him, a risky business, given the uncertainty related to the eventual marketing of these potatoes. “But on the other hand, processors will simply need potatoes again next year,” he says

Ten Cate emphasizes that each grower will have to consider the acreage to be planted for himself. “A ‘free’ grower who now doesn’t get paid much for his product will think three times before taking that risk again. The input cost is simply too high for that. It is currently very important that as a grower you can cover your fixed costs through good contract agreements with your customer. That ultimately determines the acreage,” he says.

In reality, business advisers Jan Lucas Spijkman and Egbert Bakker of accountancy firm Countus have noticed that some growers of chipping potatoes are considering planting a reduced acreage for the coming season. Spijkman also assumes that these growers will plant more grain for a year instead of potatoes. He points out that potatoes and also onions remain the crops on which most arable farms base their business.

Bakker, working in Flevoland, says growers who doubt whether they have sufficient options to cover their costs will be inclined to plant a smaller potato area. ‘

The Countus business advisor doubts whether arable farmers will cancel a year of rental land due to fewer potatoes being planted. ” Rental land is too scarce for that. Moreover, in terms of investment in machinery and storage facilities, companies are planning on a specific potato area. A temporary switch to an alternative crop is then not viable. But given the pressure on margins, a choice will have to be made.”

CZAV sales manager Bram de Visser also sees a trend toward less potatoes and more wheat in the southwest of the Netherlands. But he can not substantiate this with figures yet. “We have the impression that an extra block of wheat is being planted here and there.”

According to De Visser, many arable farmers are postponing their plans for the next season.

Potato growers on the sandy soils in Southeast Netherlands are indeed looking for alternatives. This is the impression of Delphy’s cultivation advisor Stefan Michiels. “We now mainly have to wait and see what will happen with the contracts. On the sand, it is not surprising that arable farmers only finalize their cropping plans in the spring.”

Source: Nieuwe Oogst. Original report in the Dutch language here
Photo: Tractorspotter 

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