Potato growers in the North Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) countries face several challenges in the upcoming months, according to a news release issued by the industry body today. Certain developments in the current season have led to a seemingly uncertain future for the potato industry in western Europe, according to the NEPG.
The NEPG represents Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France.
NEPG reports indicate limited free stocks in various countries, with the Netherlands experiencing a 13% decrease from last season and a 20% drop from the 5-year average. However, high demand has maintained a positive outlook.
The pressing question for the next season is the development of planted acreage within NEPG countries. While increased contract prices would typically affect potato area size, the volatile grain market has tempered this to some extent.
A slight increase in the total planted potato area seems probable, but structural expansion in the Netherlands and Belgium may be limited due to factors such as limited potato land, the new CAP, greening agreements linked to the Green Deal, and increased land rent prices.
Slight Acreage Expansion?
The next season’s acreage development within NEPG countries is uncertain. Although an expansion in the potato area by a few percent due to a historical rise in contract prices is the most likely scenario, this remains uncertain. Factors such as limited potato land, the new CAP, greening agreements linked to the Green Deal, and increased land rent prices suggest little room for structural expansion in the Netherlands and Belgium.
To expand potato production in the Netherlands, growers will primarily need to sacrifice starch or seed potato areas. Growers in traditional clay regions prefer the highest contracted tonnage, but expansion is unclear. In the NEPG zone (EU-4), opportunities exist in northern Germany, where a shift from table and starch potatoes to chipping (French fries) potatoes is occurring.
However, this region’s distance from the processing capacity epicenter in the south of the Netherlands and Belgium is a disadvantage, and competition from other well-performing crops must be considered.
In France and Germany, a switch from seed and table potatoes to chipping varieties will drive acreage gain. However, not all areas in these countries are suitable for intensive potato cultivation due to limited irrigation options.
Additionally, new legislation in Belgium linked to nitrogen use or a potato cultivation ban in high erosion risk zones could reduce potato area in the coming years.
Seed Production Concerns
Concerns about seed production and availability exist in the NEPG zone and other seed-producing countries like Denmark and Scotland. The sector could lose at least 5,000 ha (and possibly more) of seed production due to a switch to more processing varieties.
Low profitability in the seed sector and stricter pesticide legislation also contribute to these concerns. Ware growers are worried about seed availability and the risk of higher prices. Processors require more potato land and production, but this depends on adequate seed availability.
Water supply is a growing concern, especially in the southern regions of the NEPG zone. Drought risk is increasing, and last summer’s extreme drought continues to impact water resources. Despite some recent rainfall, moisture reserves remain low, particularly in the southern potato-growing regions.
The industry has largely met the need for raw materials, but if acreage increases and harvest is above average, this could significantly affect the free market. With the industry’s high coverage ratio, there may be little buying or market interest in free potatoes, according to NEPG.
Source: North Western European Potato Growers (NEPG)
Cover image: Credit Wikimedia Commons