This year, decision-makers from the Austrian potato industry again gathered in Roseldorf/Lower Austria at the end of August to discuss the state of the national and international potato markets. Present were producers, traders, industry representatives and government officials and spokesmen for Farmers’ Union and the Chamber of Agriculture, all providing various contributions and evaluating the current situation.
After an icy March and the subsequent late seeding of the early varieties, the above-average months of April and May were true vegetation boosters. Due to the extremely favorable growth conditions and the associated early ripening, the Burgenland, Styria, the Marchfeld and the Stockerauer area had to begin clearing approximately at the same time. Within a short time the warehouses of the potato traders were flooded with this year’s goods.
The free market makes that oversupply results in price reductions. After a good starting price of 35-40 EUR/dt at the beginning of June, prices stabilized four weeks later at 18-20 EUR/dt. At the end of July, however, there was no longer talk of any oversupply. As the season progressed and there were problems due to the heat, both stocks and prices changed. As in previous years, temperatures of well over 30 degrees over unirrigated land had devastating consequences. Already in July, the northern Weinviertel was affected by severe drought. At the beginning of August, the extreme drought had spread to almost all large growing areas. Sporadic local precipitation no longer had any decisive influence on the prosperity of the late varieties.
In many places, the damage had already been done. Weakened plants are naturally more susceptible to disease. Stolbur, an infection caused by phytoplasmas, is causing many a headache for producers and marketers these days. The plant, infected by the glass wing cicada, forms rubbery nodules and is subsequently extremely unsuitable for sale. Even the wireworm, the beetle larva, had formed unusually large populations this year, sometimes causing enormous damage. According to numerous statements, this year potato growers will have great problems nationwide to meet customer requirements.
The forecasts of the starch industry speaks of about 80-85% fulfilled contract quantities nation wide. While in the Waldviertel with 30-45 dt/ha the average yields are still halfway all right, in the rest of Austria it is 20-25 dt/ha at most. There is quite a subdued mood among those involved in the food and food potatoes sector. The harvest reports from the federal states are mostly terrible. Especially in the center of the Austrian potato production area of Hollabrunn, Horn, Mistelbach and Korneuburg, the yield per hectare is sometimes far below average and local farmers with a yield per hectare of less than 20 dt/ha are having a tough time.
At the end of the day all participants of the event agreed. This year’s harvest will go down into domestic potato history as consistently difficult. The previous year’s level of 650,000 tons will remain far out of reach this year, making exports not the rule, but the exception.