Summer Drought Will Diminish NEPG Zone Potato Crop by 7 to 11 Percent

LinkedIn Pinterest Tumblr

During its last meeting prior to the DLG-organized Potato Europe 2022 exhibition and conference at Bockerode/Springe, Germany, members of the Northwestern European Potato Growers (NEPG) information exchange association estimated that potato crop in the EU-04 Zone will be down by from 7-11% this year.

The probable number of final hectares under cultivation will total 510,938, an increase of 3.2% in comparison with last year, and a rise of 1,7 % compared to the five-year average. Dutch growers planted 7.7% more hectares in 2021. Depending on final growth gains, output should vary between 20 and 21 million tons.

Following a long and unusually dry and hot summer, potato production has fallen throughout Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Conditions vary by country and region, with farmers in Belgium and France most affected (around 20% less for the Belgians)), and growers in the Netherlands less impacted, particularly those north of the major rivers where more rain fell.

Summer 2022 will be recorded as a difficult and a very costly year according to the NEPG, because of low yields per hectare, and also due to higher energy and irrigation costs. Some farmers will not be able to deliver their expected contracts due to low yields.

The heat waves throughout the season have caused quality and storage issues. There are reports of not only too high underwater weights and not enough tuber length, but what is more worrisome is the lifting of dormancy. Even if rain comes to better soil situations and harvesting conditions, bruising could be problematic while lifting. Early germination in storage facilities will also render the upcoming storage season difficult and more expensive. Weight losses and wastage levels (due to bruising, among other things) will likely be higher.

Unlike 2018-19 when potatoes were available from Poland and other parts of Europe, this season no spuds will be coming from these areas, while processors’ needs have greatly increased.

Current contract prices for 2022-23 were signed early in the year, but after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in late February, and especially during the last six months, production costs have dramatically risen. Actual contract prices do not cover the additional costs growers have been coping with and are likely to continue facing in the coming weeks and months. With free buy market prices stable at €25/100 kg, and future market quotations for April 2023 not very much higher, farmers are very concerned about their income and would like rising costs should be shared by the whole potato chain.

With significantly higher electricity, diesel and fertilizer costs, and higher risks linked to shifting climate patterns and the ongoing war in Ukraine, some potato growers wonder what they should plant or sow in the spring of 2023.

“With no guarantees from buyers,” warned the NEPG in a press release issued on September 12, “potato producers could end up deciding to plant or sow more alternative crops.”

(Photo Credit: DLG/Jelinek)