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European potato market: Bleak outlook due to slow demand, low prices and sprouting fears

NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) says it is unsure of the current potato situation and does not expect major changes in the demand side of the market in the coming weeks. NEPG says in a press release that due to the pandemic, there is hardly any demand for potatoes on the open market from the processing industry, and prices are on an extremely low level.

Another large challenge is the actual sprouting threat reported by growers in all the 5 leading potato producing countries. This could change the supply-situation in the coming months.

Fewer processing contracts

Due to the pandemic, the processing industry works at 80 to 90 % of their normal capacity – which will remain until the European Horeca will re-open again. At the start of 2021, mainland growers and processors will negotiate contracts for the 2021/22 season, and it is expected that fewer contracts will be signed. The NEPG on the continent upgrades their earlier area advice of 15 % less, towards a smaller desired potato area of 15 – 20 % less.

The continental producers are facing greater technical and economic risks and increased societal demand for sustainability. Producers would like to meet these desires but fear that the additional costs of meeting this extra demand will not be covered.

Sprouting

This season is the first where CIPC is not allowed as anti-sprouting anymore, however, the alternative protection is working less easily or is not enough available. Growers are testing and experimenting however all NEPG countries report sprouting stocks.

Storing potatoes has become much more expensive (amenities in storages, higher cost for the “new” anti-sprouting products, cost for the treatments) than it ever was, especially for the longer storage till the summer of 2021. The new anti-sprouting measures have become too expensive for the free potatoes marketed at the actual low-price level and is not feasible to use.

Many free potatoes have already left the stores or will leave soon towards the export, cattle feed, starch industry and biogas, keeping them longer is seen as a risk at the actual price level.

More at-home consumption

A positive trend is that in all NEPG countries consumer research shows a growth in at-home consumption of fresh potatoes, on average 11 %. The actual export is also on a good level. Remarkable also is the growing export of fresh potatoes to Africa. The Netherlands reported an increase to exports to Africa from 30.190 tons to 58.200 tons, with Senegal as the major client with 21.600 tons.

The NEPG is following the last negotiations between Great Britain and the EU as a no deal Brexit will bring extra challenges in the export markets.

NEPG says it is impossible to come to final conclusions or provide advice to growers in member countries since there is too much uncertainty in market trends this season.

Source: NEPG

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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