Potato season 2023/24 will hit the history books as the season in which the perpetuum mobile of culture and processing of fresh potatoes was affected by an unknown number of factors, 
each of them having its effects at the same time : the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the consecutive series of poor weather conditions, the military conflict in Ukraine, 
demonstrations of farmers in anger, the conflict in Israel and its consequences for maritime transport, elections in nearly all European member states, new regulations
aiming at keeping the balance between agriculture and nature preservation,……
Medio March 2024 we cannot but establish that : 
° the overall cost price of growing potatoes has reached unknown levels : seeding potatoes, fertilizer, equipment, combustible, labour, permanent increasing administration and bureaucracy,…..
° motivation to grow potatoes has decreased dramatically under pressure of higher risks (climate, diseases, conservation, lack of fertilizer, use/no use of pesticides, prices paid by the industry)
  and more attractive offers for alternative cultures with much lower costs/risks such as corn, wheat and barley or even so-called alternative energy cultures make farmers doubt and study.
  If trade and processing industries do not offer higher prices to farmers, they will run short of raw materials to keep their factories operational 24/7 throughout the year.
° the cost price of potato processing keeps floating at high levels, in spite of prices of energy (gas and electricity) coming down to pre-Covid levels; 
° the European “green deal” imposes new measures to reduce waste and to recuperate materials, which is not possible without massive capital investment; 
° the total output of potato season 2023/24 in the NEPG was slightly better than the past 5-years average, but does not follow the speed of growth of the industries’ processing capacity; 
° some 11 000 hectares of potatoes went irreversably lost due to combination of very wet weather in September and October and frost in November and December. This means an estimated
  loss of ca 650 000 tons of fresh potatoes (on a total of 5 200 000 tons);
° conservation of the tubers in the barns varies from poor to average. Many farmers have had to empty their barns as wet rot, phytophthora and other diseases in the best cases reduced their goods 
  to feed for cattle and pigs. Hundreds, if not thousands of tons went to scrap.
° as January and February 2024 were very wet, farmers will not be able to prepare the fields in March, which means that already now we can put forward that new season 2024/25 will start later
  than normal. Most varieties require 100-110 days of normal growth to reach maturity and offer best output per hectare. In combination with the poor conservation of the tubers in the stores it means
  that realistically speaking there will be a gap without good quality fresh potatoes before new season potatoes will be taken in. When exactly and for how long is still an open question at this moment, but
  both spot and future’s markets anticipate violently and hiccups in the entire supply chain are not excluded.
° for the new season the volume of seeding potatoes available will be around 10 000 tons lower than in preceeding years. This is the result of a combination of poor weather conditions and 
  demotivation from farmers. It means that available seeding material will be treated in a different way, with a higher risk on failures, infections and diseases to the plant, which can lead to a lower output in summer.
° both spot and future’s market beat all times’ records, which leads to believe that the rest of 2024 and major part of 2025 will continue being very expensive….
It is clear that the Western European culture of fresh potatoes and its processing industries are going through a period of fundamental changes. A period in which each party, grower, dealer, industrial processor,  
will face a series of new challenges, bearing in mind that at the very end of the line the “market” is composed of end users, which will decide in function of their level of income if and how much of the potato  
products offered they will consume. A constructive communication involving the international political world will be necessary to keep the sector healthy in all senses of the word.
Posted in Geen categorie.

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