News February 2024

Farmers’ protests in Europe and the dead-end of neoliberalism

At the WTO’s 13th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi, members of the European Coordination Via Campesina protested against neoliberal agricultural policies. Highlighting a direct link to the impoverishment of farmers across Europe, they voiced frustration over decades of unfair policies that have increased production costs, stagnated farmer wages, and led to significant personal debts among farmers, despite their efforts to increase production. The ongoing farmer protests in Europe demonstrate the dire situation and demand for change.

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‘The golden crop’: New report details how the U.S. potato industry bolsters the economy and job market

The National Potato Council’s report, prepared by Michigan State University economists, highlights the significant economic role of the U.S. potato industry, worth $100.9 billion. With $2.2 billion in exports from July 2022 to June 2023, accounting for 20% of U.S. potato production, these exports underpin substantial domestic activity and jobs—nearly $4.78 billion in economic contribution and about 33,846 jobs. The potato industry at large supports over 714,000 jobs across the nation.

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Albert Bartlett to develop new potato varieties to replace Maris Piper

UK potato supplier Albert Bartlett plans to develop alternative potato varieties due to the Maris Piper’s challenges, amidst rising costs and erratic yields from extreme weather. Issues with floods, droughts, and increased energy and fertilizer prices have impacted production. Varieties like King Edwards and Maris Peer, though popular, are difficult and costly to grow. With profit margins thinning, an agronomy team is focusing on climate-resilient alternatives.

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Angry French farmers drive their tractors into Paris in fresh protests

In Paris, dozens of tractors, organized by Rural Coordination, a farmers’ union, peacefully entered a western neighborhood, showcasing their protest with a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. This follows their earlier roadblocks around Paris, lifted after the government’s €400 million offer to address issues like low earnings and strict regulations. Their recent actions on highways around Paris reflect a wider European agricultural protest against EU policies and challenging business conditions, emphasizing the crisis in agriculture.

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Crop.zone announces advanced potato desiccation applicators for 2024 growing season

As the 2024 growing season nears, Crop.zone invites agri-professionals to its field days, featuring the new potato desiccation applicators—an innovative solution promising 25% increased efficiency and one-pass desiccation. This German-engineered technology facilitates optimal harvesting, operates at high speeds, adheres to organic standards, and has been recognized as a leading European innovation. Attendees can arrange personal meetings with experts by registering online for the event.

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Potato Storage Insight’s latest bulletin highlights seasonal storage struggles and potato industry developments

The latest Potato Storage Insight bulletin highlights weather-related challenges affecting potato planting schedules and storage. With stocks depleting early, a potential shortage is anticipated in late spring to early summer. It also focuses on maintaining storage quality for the season’s remainder. The sold-out Store Managers’ Course and consultations for a proposed National Potato Innovation Centre signify proactive industry measures. For more information, subscriptions to Synopsis are available.

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Canada: The Little Potato Company expanding to produce more ready-to-cook spuds

The Little Potato Company is investing $39.5 million in a new facility in Nisku, Alberta, aiming to double its processing capacity for seasoned, ready-to-cook potatoes. The Alberta government’s Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit is facilitating this expansion. Alberta leads in potato production, significantly impacting the economy. The new plant will process 125 million pounds annually, with most products destined for the U.S. market.

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The great potato leap: Unveiling the economic power of U.S. potato trade expansion

On February 26, 2024, the National Potato Council will host a roundtable to discuss a report by Michigan State economists on the U.S. potato industry. The report predicts a $1 billion GDP increase and thousands of new jobs from expanded potato exports. Key figures from the council will speak and answer media questions. The findings could position the U.S. as a significant global agricultural player and strengthen international trade relationships.

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Pulsemaster’s groundbreaking innovations in PEF technology set to shine at Anuga FoodTec 2024

Pulsemaster will showcase its latest pulsed electric field (PEF) technology at Anuga FoodTec 2024 from March 19-22 in Cologne, Germany. Managing Director Mark de Boevere will present their new PEF-system for big raw-peeled potatoes, vital for french fries and potato chip quality enhancement. With a focus on the booming healthy snacks market, they’re also developing PEF for dehydrated fruits and vegetables. Pulsemaster’s innovation aligns with clean food trends and has garnered international interest.

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Royal recognition: Princess Anne tours award-winning Haith Group in South Yorkshire

On February 21st, HRH The Princess Royal visited Haith Group, a top UK vegetable machinery firm in South Yorkshire. Observing their acclaimed machinery and touring the facilities, she gained insights into their award-winning innovations like the Rota-Tip box tippler and Root Veg Polisher. Her Royal Highness unveiled a commemorative plaque and engaged with the Haith family and staff. Haith, founded in 1947, employs over 120 people and is essential to global food producers.

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Michigan’s mighty spuds: A $2.5 billion boost to state economy and job market

Michigan’s potato industry generates over $2.5 billion for the state’s GDP and supports roughly 21,700 jobs, solidifying its status as an economic powerhouse and the second-largest commodity in Michigan, behind apples. A Michigan State University study highlights its significance, with Michigan being the national leader in chipping potatoes, supplying one-fourth of U.S. potato chips. The industry impacts various sectors, from rural farming to urban retail, confirming its crucial role in Michigan’s economy and job market.

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Kiremko peels away limitations at Anuga FoodTec: Innovation, sustainability, and your future processing success

Kiremko is set to impress at Anuga FoodTec 2024 with their complete turnkey potato processing solutions, emphasizing sustainability with their “Less is More” approach. As global leaders and partners with Idaho Steel, they offer optimization from peeling to final product. Discover their eco-friendly, innovative equipment and strategic partnership opportunities at their booth in Cologne, Germany, or online.

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Navigating water scarcity: The promise of drip irrigation for sustainable potato farming

The CHIPS Nov-Dec 2023 issue features an article by Lukie Pieterse on using drip irrigation in water-scarce potato farming. Highlighting the technique’s efficiency in water and nutrient delivery, it offers potential for higher yields and quality produce. Despite higher initial costs, long-term benefits include savings and better production. Challenges like system clogging and soil salinity are noted. The article advocates for farmer education, government support, and technological advances to optimize drip irrigation for potato production.

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New biological foliar treatment to boost nutrient use efficiency, boost crop yields

British farmers are set to gain from the new TARBIS foliar treatment, which enhances nutrient efficiency and crop yields while reducing dependency on synthetic fertilisers. Industry-tested and approved for organic systems, TARBIS, developed by Unium Bioscience, helps plants fix and uptake various nutrients and withstand stresses like drought. Effective in any climate, it could significantly cut fertiliser costs and benefit the environment.

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Empowering international delegates: World Potato Congress 2024 offers support for attendees from Asia, South America, and Africa

The World Potato Congress Inc. (WPC) is dedicated to supporting FAO Sustainability Goals through its “Declaration of Dublin,” enhancing global potato industry collaboration. To facilitate this, the WPC, with its partners, is sponsoring 20 delegates from diverse regions to attend its Congress in Australia, offering financial support for attendance, lodging, and travel. This initiative underlines the WPC’s commitment to creating a global platform for sustainable agricultural progress and food security.

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Moderate seed potato crop in Western Europe results in historic high prices, lower acreage expected in 2024

Seed potato acreage in the Netherlands, Germany, and France is declining, hitting less than 40,000 hectares in the Netherlands, a trend continuing for the third year. Wouter Mutsaers of Q-potato Holland highlights difficulties in managing increased disease pressure and reduced quality and quantity of seed potatoes due to poor conditions. Despite high prices, acreage is not expanding as usual, raising concerns over the supply for ware potato cultivation next season.

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‘Preventing the next plant plague’: Jean Ristaino’s groundbreaking research in the fight against potato blight

Plant pathologist Jean Ristaino from NC State University is spearheading research to combat plant diseases such as late blight in potatoes and tomatoes. She is developing a rapid detection system to manage plant diseases efficiently and mapping the Phytophthora ‘tree of life’ to understand disease evolution. Her international collaboration and upcoming book “The Potato Plague” emphasize the global effort needed to secure food supplies amid climate change and population growth.

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Agrico and The Potato Company to unite: A strategic acquisition to redefine the seed potato industry

Agrico is set to acquire The Potato Company’s seed potato operations, aiming to meet growing global demand. This move, founded on a successful partnership, will enhance Agrico’s presence in Western Europe’s competitive market. TPC will function as a subsidiary, bringing in extensive expertise and a large distribution network. Both companies view the acquisition as beneficial, promising improved returns for growers and setting new industry standards for innovation and cooperation.

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DLG launches new event: ‘Potato Days UK’

DLG’s “Potato Days” event series will debut in the UK at Nocton Farm, Lincolnshire, on 4-5 September 2024. This outdoor trade fair, aimed at the potato industry’s value chain, will host exhibits, live demonstrations, and network opportunities. A 20-hectare venue by Dyson Farming sets the stage for professionals to explore innovative agricultural solutions. Dr. Lars Huf, Project manager of Potato Days UK underscores the event’s practical focus and its alignment with UK’s significant potato production.

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Navigating global challenges: Royal HZPC Group matches previous year’s success and prepares for leadership change

Royal HZPC Group weathered a difficult 2023 in potato breeding, with reduced yields in Europe but expected financial parity with the previous year. Adapting through sales of top seed sizes and exceptional permissions outside the EU, the company offset a 10% European sales drop with a global 3% tonnage increase. A stable €420 million turnover is projected despite debt collection concerns. CEO Gerard Backx will retire in 2024, succeeded by seasoned executive Hans Huistra, promising continued growth and innovation.

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‘Tiny titans of the farm’: Nanotechnology poised to revolutionize agriculture, but cautious steps needed

Scientists from the School of Biological Sciences, Central University of Kerala anticipate nanotechnology will significantly advance agriculture, as detailed in their review published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research. Nanotech approaches, like nano-fertilizers, biosensors, and enhanced seeds, aim to improve yields, reduce environmental impact, and combat food insecurity due to climate change and population growth. However, challenges such as potential nanoparticle toxicity, ethical issues related to accessibility, and ecological effects must be addressed responsibly.

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Australia’s potato industry surpasses $1 billion in production value for the first time

Australia’s potato industry has exceeded a $1 billion production value, marking a 24% increase from the previous year. This milestone is attributed to investments in automation and innovation. Annual production remains steady at 1.4 million tonnes. The significant growth, as detailed by ABC Landline, suggests strong and sustained demand, echoed by the experiences of growers like Michael Smith.

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Podcast: A discussion with NPC grower-leaders RJ Andrus and Bob Mattive

At the Potato Expo 2024, NPC 2023 President RJ Andrus and First VP Bob Mattive discussed their Executive Committee roles and the upcoming NPC Washington Summit from Feb. 26 to March 1, 2024. Andrus, a third-generation Idaho farmer, and Mattive, manager of Colorado’s Worley Family Farms, have contributed to key agricultural roles and policy development. Insights from their conversation are available on the “Eye on Potatoes” podcast.

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FAO: Every day, more and more people in Gaza are on the brink of famine-like conditions

Conflict leads to humanitarian crises and increased hunger, as observed by the FAO. Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol reports on FAO’s efforts in Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine to combat malnutrition and restore agriculture. The FAO faces unprecedented acute food insecurity in Gaza, with 25% of people nearing famine. Solutions to conflict are needed urgently as people’s access to food, water, and medical services decreases daily.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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