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Crisis in Belgian potato industry brought on by extreme weather events

Belpotato, a collaborative initiative between farmers’ associations and the potato processing industry in Belgium, says in a press release that the Belgian potato industry is facing significant challenges due to adverse weather conditions.

The year began with poor weather leading to a delayed planting season, affecting the autumn harvest schedule. Despite favorable conditions in September, which boosted yields, the high temperatures were not ideal for long-term potato storage later in the season. October and November brought heavy rains, making it impossible to harvest in some areas.

Currently, an estimated 20-25% of the Belgian potato area remains unharvested, with variations between Wallonia (10-15%) and Flanders (20-30%). This situation is concerning for both growers and buyers. Potatoes inundated for 24 hours are rotting, leading to significant losses. Even in non-flooded areas, issues like spray traces and waterlogged soil are causing rot. The quality of potatoes is rapidly deteriorating, and their storability is a major concern. A portion of the harvest still in the fields may be of lower quality. Monitoring during storage will require extra attention.

Everyone in the sector hopes for improved weather to maximize the harvest and ensure sufficient supply throughout the season. There’s no immediate supply problem, but continued harvesting delays could pose issues later in the storage season. Most Belgian potatoes are grown under contract, and the current situation won’t impact the contracted price. However, some producers might not be able to meet their contractual obligations due to the exceptional weather.

Action Plan

  • Belgapom urges stakeholders to inform buyers promptly of any issues to find solutions together.
  • For potatoes that can still be harvested and processed but won’t store well, the sector aims to process them as soon as possible.
  • Those with weather insurance should contact their agents, noting that some policies don’t cover damages after November 1st.
  • In Flanders, affected individuals are advised to gather evidence (photos, delivery notes, etc.) for the Flemish calamity fund. Claims should be made within 60 days of the weather event.
  • In Wallonia, damages can be reported to the crop damage assessment commissions.

Source: Belpotato. Press release can be read in Dutch and French on the Belpotato website. English translation for this article done by Potato News Today.
Photo: Credit Belpotato

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