Organizations representing potato farmers in Belgium and France, ABS (Algemeen Boerensyndicaat, Flanders), FWA (Walloon Federation of Agriculture) and UNPT (National Union of Potato Producers, France), jointly started Interreg project GEPOS to look for alternative destinations for potatoes in Belgium and the North of France in seasons marked by large surpluses.
Demand for potatoes for processing in Belgium and France increases each year. As a result, acreage dedicated to potato cultivation is expanding and more productive potato varieties are grown. At the same time, production risks are increasing due to climate change. Thus production that sees large variability from year to year. This results in a problem for potato growers: in years of high productivity, the potato surplus is so large that potato prices drop, suppressing the total value of potatoes produced in the region.
In the last decade, this happened three times. In these seasons, large volumes of “very cheap” potatoes were available, which could create opportunities for alternative outlets.
The condition for success is the identification of outlets that will be able to absorb very large volumes of potatoes, but only during these particular seasons.
This requires prior agreements, as well as convincing producers to collaborate on a large scale, and across borders, to deliver these volumes of potatoes on favourable terms.
The project will develop a decision support system, which will allow for an estimate at the start of each season, whether or not there is a real probability of a significant surplus in potatoes. In a second step, it will examine the possibilities for different alternative outlets to absorb these volumes of potatoes, and under which conditions.
The project will focus on animal food, the potato starch industry, biogas (anaerobic digestion), and industrial as well as farm composting sectors.
Finally, it will determine whether producers in the region are ready to engage in such a large-scale collaboration, to make this alternative outlet possible.
This project started in January and is being carried out with the support of the European Regional Development Fund. It will conclude at the beginning of July 2019.