News December 2020

Mallorca potato exporters facing ‘considerable’ Brexit bureaucracy

Over the coming months, Mallorca’s Sa Pobla potato exporters will be faced with considerable new bureaucracy as a result of Brexit. Mallorca Daily Bulletin reports that Mateu Export is responsible for around two-thirds of the potato exports to the UK. Its manager, Joan Mateu, says that the total export process, already aggravated by Mallorca being an island, will slow down. This is because of phytosanitary certification and documentation for the customs system in the UK. S’Esplet, another exporter, also anticipates problems.

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Virtual Potato Expo 2021 ready for big crowd

The first-ever digital Potato Expo is on tap for Jan. 5-7 and the event has plenty to offer the industry, National Potato Council leaders say. Registration for the 2021 Potato Expo event is available online. Earlier this month, the Packer’s Tom Karst visited with Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council and Hollee Alexander, vice president of industry relations and events for the council.

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Scottish potato firm cuts 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging

Scottish potato business Scotty Brand has cut almost 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging in a year. Scotty Brand said it introduced a raft of plastic-saving measures across its range to help protect the environment in September 2019 which included thinner, recyclable plastic on its 2kg potato bags, Baby Potato bags and Chippy Chip packs and removing trays inside its Baking Potato packs. In total, these steps have seen Scotty Brand save 26,890kg of plastic.

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The recyclable packaging trend: PepsiCo’s partnership with bioplastics manufacturer Danimer Scientific

PepsiCo joined forces with Danimer Scientific several years ago with the goal to develop sustainable flexible packaging, Danimer says in a news release published on its website. According to the release, Danimer Scientific developed biobased compostable packaging for PepsiCo’s snack brands in the past. The new initiative is said to be “right in line with PepsiCo’s announced strategy to make all of its packaging recoverable or recyclable.”

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Scottish minister pledges to fight for seed potato exporters

Scotland’s rural economy minister has pledged to do “everything possible” to reverse the “damaging impact” of the UK’s trade deal with the EU on seed potato farmers. Mr Ewing said he held talks with industry leaders this Monday and an urgent meeting with Mr Eustice. From Friday, seed potatoes will be banned from being exported to the EU, which could have an estimated £15m impact on the sector in which Scotland accounts for three-quarters of the UK’s 280 growers.

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‘To be or not to be’: British potato industry to discuss future direction of Potatoes at AHDB

On January 7 levy payers will gather online for an open discussion about the future direction of Potatoes at AHDB. This virtual ‘town hall’ event will give participants the chance to have a say on AHDB’s new five-year strategy and ask questions of Alison Levett (Potatoes Interim Chair) and Rob Clayton (Strategy Director). AHDB says its new strategy will put the organization in a place to deliver what the industry needs, including revamping the way AHDB works.

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Future Farming: You cannot hide from the satellite!

There are many movies where satellites offer scary surveillance capabilities. Of course, it is science fiction, but with the latest commercial satellites some level of space surveillance of crops and fields can be achieved. Besides the Big Brother effect, farmers can also benefit from the satellite imagery with increasing detail that become readily available at increasing cadence, writes Tamme van der Wal, scientist at Wageningen University in this article published by Future Farming.

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans: ‘Make every bite count with potatoes’

Potatoes help support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation for increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Says John Toaspern, Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer: “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption.

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Idaho farmers look ahead after roller-coaster year

COVID-19 has “scrambled” the outlook for potato growers, said economist Bruce Huffaker, who is president of North American Potato Market News, Inc. Huffaker believes the potato market has made up a great deal of ground following the COVID-19 hit, and demand should be relatively strong looking ahead. Between April and June, global trade in french fries declined by 30%. It’s been recovering since then, Huffaker said. “One of the challenges we are seeing still is while global trade is only down 2.8%, North American exports are still running 15% behind last year’s pace,” Huffaker said.

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Potato sales and utilization in the US: The ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how much’ answered

John Toaspern, Chief Marketing Officer at Potatoes USA provides insight from this year’s Sales and Utilization study of US potatoes. “With everything that has occurred this past marketing year, it is very important for us to understand what has happened with the sales of potatoes in the US market and how the crop was utilized based on an analysis of potatoes and products sold at retail and food service and accounting for the volume of US exports and imports,” Toasperm says.

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The puzzle of non-host resistance: Why do pathogens harm some plants but not others?

People have puzzled for years why pathogen Phytophthora infestans causes the devastating late blight disease on potatoes, but has no effect at all on plants like apple or cucumber. How are apple trees and cucumber plants able to completely shake off this devastating pathogen? Agricultural scientists have wondered for years: if this resistance is so complete and persists over so many generations, is there some way we could transfer it to susceptible plants and thereby stop the disease?

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2Blades Foundation: The quest to bring a durable, blight-resistant potato to African farmers

The 2Blades Foundation, a non-profit research organization based in the Chicago area, is a principal sponsor of a project that recently developed a durable solution for the late blight potato disease. The discovery is of historic importance, and now 2Blades is seeking partners to help bring this disease-resistant potato variety to market and fight hunger in East Africa. 2Blades Foundation says it is honored to have the support of the son of Robert F. Kennedy, businessman Chris Kennedy, for its African Potato Initiative.

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Bangladesh to import blight resistant GMO varieties developed at Michigan State University

Thousands of farmers in Bangladesh grow potatoes on over one million acres of land, spending up to a fourth of their investment on fungicide sprays to fight late blight. The disease damages 20 percent of the total potato production in the country. The Bangladeshi government has finally allowed its scientists to import two blight resistant (RB) potato varieties, developed at the Michigan State University (MSU), and agreed that field trials can be conducted with the varieties.

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New Zealand’s South Island and green onion chips: A love story for the ages

From the tip of Farewell Spit to the very arse end of Stewart Island, there is one delicacy that unites Te Wai Pounamu: the humble green onion chip. But why? Alice Neville embarks on a quest for the true story behind this regional snacking quirk in a delightful article. We publish a brief excerpt here – the full story can be read on The Spinoff.

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Brexit: Northern Ireland hoping for unfettered access to ware and seed imports from rest of the UK

Northern Ireland’s potato industry is reportedly hoping against hope that a derogation allowing the importation of both ware and seed from GB into the province, beyond December 31st, can be sorted out over the coming days. According to Wilson’s Country chairman Angus, the reality is that Northern Ireland’s potato sector is very dependent on having unfettered access to both ware and seed imports from the rest of the UK. This trade must be allowed to continue, as is, into the future.

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Canadian Potato Summit – 2021

The Canadian Potato Summit is a yearly update for what’s happening in the Canadian potato industry, hosted by Potatoes in Canada magazine. Join industry members and growers in a virtual format to stay updated on research, industry projects and the latest field insights. The organizers say the interactive event will arm participants with tools and information they need to kick off a successful growing season. The schedule and sessions as these stand now are published below.

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‘FarmHer’: A unique online voice for women involved in agriculture

FarmHer began after founder and host, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, took a leap of faith, starting a passion project in 2013 with a mission of shining a light on the women of agriculture. Today the business consists of various entities, all shining a light on women in agriculture. FarmHer has featured over 350 women and creates a diverse set of media offerings, including photography, television, YouTube videos, written word, and podcasts. Each month, over a million people interact and/or experience the brand’s presence in their lives.

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Smart farming: The growing role of precision agriculture and biotech

Farming has always involved risk. Risk of pestilence, water shortages or excess, and weather events are only a few of the conditions affecting successful crop growth. Applied nutrients and crop protectors help plants thrive but can result in environmental harm. Given sustainability concerns, growing tomorrow’s food supply is even more fraught with challenges. The good news is that agricultural technology designed to address this growing need is booming. Smart farming technologies are gaining steam, with innovations ranging from seed breeding to seed feeding to the ability to monitor crops and conditions in real time.

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Supply chain sustainability the focus for McCain

Lockdown had led to a sudden shift from a crop shortfall following weather challenges last season to a surplus for potato giant McCain, as it lost 50 per cent of sales overnight. The last 10 years have thrown up multiple climate challenges for potato growers and McCain was looking to help create certainty for farmers and build supply chain resilience. Daniel Metheringham, McCain head of agriculture, said: “This time last year we were sat in the midst of a crop crisis because of weather volatility. When we hit Covid-19, all of a sudden we went from a crop shortfall to a crop surplus.”

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UK: Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms Results Week – Harvest 2020

AHDB Potatoes in the UK invites everyone for a week of online events exploring the work from its Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms from January 19 – 21. Online sessions hosted by AHDB will bring the growers, agronomists and researchers who have delivered field trials in 2020 together to discuss the work, deliver results and talk about what they learned. AHDB’s SPot Farms this year grew everything from certified seed, through salads to maincrop for the fresh and processing markets. With a range of geographical locations, soil types and challenges – there is something to learn for all growers.

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Documentary: Drones, robots, and super sperm – the future of farming

The future of farming: Driverless tractors, drones and robots. How is the agriculture industry changing as digital technology develops? Unmanned tractors controlled via GPS; drones that kill vermin in the fields from above; and highly efficient bull sperm used to produce genetically optimized calves. This is not science fiction. It’s the future of farming, today. “Smart farming” is the agricultural industry’s new buzzword, says the producers of this video by Deutsche Welle Documentary.

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CIP Deputy Director warns of the dire consequences of a ‘crop pandemic’, biodiversity loss

As the impacts of climate change intensify — from water scarcity to raging fires and disease outbreaks — the ability to keep pace with demand for food will increasingly rely on crops adapted to new conditions. To achieve this crop breeders will need the full range of tools at their disposal. So says Oscar Ortiz, Deputy Director General for Research and Development at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. Ortiz warns that biodiversity loss threatens national security.

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How Scottish seed potato exports to the EU got left behind by Brexit

While all eyes have been on arrangements for fishing and livestock exports in the Brexit trade negotiations, few spared a thought for the humble seed potato. This seldom-discussed but valuable Scottish product has not made the list of food exports continuing to the EU having been denied third-country equivalence – the process whereby the European Commission decides whether a non-EU country’s regulatory, supervisory and enforcement regime is equivalent to its own.

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‘Fight the blight’: CIP developed an app to help potato farmers in developing countries reduce agrochemical use

Late blight disease remains the biggest threat to potato farming globally, causing USD billions of crop loss each year. In most areas, farmers can only grow potatoes if they regularly apply fungicides, which control the highly destructive pathogen but pose risks to the environment, farmers and their families. Scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) have developed an easy-to-use decision support tool to help farmers optimize their fungicide use.

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Potato Forum convenes: Republic of Georgia in a quest to boost its potato sector

Last week, key actors from the Republic of Georgia’s potato sector convened virtually to discuss ideas to enhance the country’s potato sector. Dubbed the “Georgia Potato Forum,” the meeting focused on ways to develop value chains to improve market opportunities for farmers while providing markets and consumers with higher-quality potatoes. The Forum was the first in a series that will continue into 2021.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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