BusinessHot summer a blight for Flemish potato farmers

Hot summer a blight for Flemish potato farmers

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This year’s Flemish potato harvest is well behind schedule.

The Flemish agriculture and horticulture information centre says that the soil is too dry and as a result too hard to allow an efficient potato harvest. The centre blames the dry Flemish summer and the weather in recent weeks.

Flemish potato farmers say that half their crop is still stuck in the ground. Many farmers still need to start digging up their spuds. There are regional variations though. In West Flanders most of the crop has already been dug up as the rainfall was more plentiful here in recent weeks.

In eastern Belgium too dry conditions persist. Farmers harvesting under such conditions dig up a lot of earth together with their potatoes and this leads to potato bruising. As a result it’s difficult to store and keep these potatoes for long periods of time.

Still, the potato harvest needs to proceed as quickly as possible. A frost could mean the loss of the entire crop.

Potato producers relieved

Meanwhile, in other parts of Belgium, it seemed as if the doomsday scenario was coming true, but over the past weekend potato producers finally felt some relief.

“At last the weather conditions were in our favour and we could start the harvest. We were beginning to wonder if it would ever rain again. Although, I think it has rained enough for now,” says Bart Nemegheer of the Aardappelhoeve. “The best weather for the harvest is cloudy but not too cold.

“Everyone has immediately started harvesting with all the manpower they can get. Everything has to get out of the ground, preferably in record time. The temperatures are all right now and there is not too much rain, so everything is good. The weather should be dry for the harvest, because that is not possible when it is raining. If the temperature remains fine, it seems as if we can still get a large volume out of the soil. It is quite logical that the producers were afraid. The chance to actually harvest the potatoes got smaller and smaller and every day the weather remained dry. Besides, near the end of October, there is a much larger chance of night frost. Many producers had sleepless nights; there is a lot of money in the ground.”

High prices
“The prices are high and for now it will remain that way,” says Nemegheer. “There is a lot of pressure on the short-term market and there is no good reason why the prices should be decreasing. The yield per hectare is not very high and there is still not enough volume on the market. There is hardly any free trade and the producers that supply the industry have a lot of trouble fulfilling their contracts. The prices are about 200 euros per ton.” And, for those people who think that the potato producers will be earning a lot of money: “That is definitely not the case. The yield per hectare is lower and during this season, more money has been used for the protection of the plants because of the weather conditions. The price is deservedly on a high level.”

Sources:  Flandersnews.be / Expatica / De Aardappelhoeve

 

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