Plantings 2024: Major Challenges For The Entire Sector Due To The Low Availability Of Seed Potatoes

Published online: Feb 12, 2024 Articles
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The supply of seed potatoes for the 2024 cultivation appears to be becoming more complicated. Compared to 2022, the seed potato area has decreased by 7 percent for the five most important producing countries in the European Union (the Netherlands, France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium). The total area has decreased by 10,000 ha in three years to approximately 84,200 ha last year. All breed types are affected.

In general, seed potato production in 2023 was characterized by an average yield, but quite coarse size (few tubers per plant). Furthermore, there was strong virus pressure at the start of cultivation, which led to many downgrades during certification. Several hundred hectares could not be harvested due to the wet weather, mainly in the Netherlands.

These factors lead to low availability of seed potatoes for planting in 2024, despite growing demand, especially for chip and chip-suitable varieties: the European industry continues to grow and wants to produce more and more hectares. The result is (very) high prices for seed potatoes, regardless of the sector (french fries, chips, fresh markets) and regardless of the commercial context (whether or not linked to a potato purchasing contract).

The temptation will therefore be great for producers of potatoes for consumption (processing or fresh markets) to supplement their traditional supplies with other sources. In the interest of the entire sector, it is useful to call for compliance with all applicable rules and standards:

  • Farm seed potatoes are strictly regulated in the different countries and are strictly reserved for self-supply. In Belgium it must be declared to the FASFC before production. And in the case of circulating seed potatoes (i.e. produced, stored or used outside the area of ??the agricultural holding's municipality and neighboring municipalities), the operator must apply for recognition from the FASFC for the issuance of plant passports and various phytosanitary analyzes must be carried out. The requirements regarding farm seed potatoes are set out here;
  • It is prohibited to recover undersized potatoes for consumption from the previous harvest;
  • Users will probably ask for an early delivery of the seed potatoes, for fear of a shortage or having to cut. As soon as the seed potatoes are delivered, the responsibility for professional storage is transferred to the recipient. View Belpotato.be's technical recommendations here;
  • The cutting of seed potatoes will take place on a large scale this year. If this is not done correctly, there is a good chance that fungal, viral or bacterial diseases will spread quickly and widely and in particular quarantine diseases. Recalibrating and cutting seed potatoes is always at the user's own risk and expense. In accordance with the current regulations for the marketing of seed potatoes, all cut seed potatoes automatically lose their status as certified seed potatoes and all associated guarantees. The responsibilities of seed potato producers then de facto disappear.

Once the decision has been made to cut:

- the farmer may only plant seed potatoes that have been cut by himself or by a contractor appointed by him for this purpose, and under the responsibility of the client; the FASFC requirements regarding cutting seed potatoes are explained here;

- cutting must be done in accordance with good practices (see www.vegaplan.be). If it is carried out by a contractor, he must be registered with the FASFC. He must also be certified with Vegaplan as a contractor.

In the current context, Belpotato.be would also like to emphasize the following points for seed potato users:

- Assess the quality of the delivered plants as soon as you receive them. Use the practical manual developed by Belpotato.be, based on user-friendly checklists and photographic scales. The aim is to detect any problems as early as possible and thus limit the consequences for all parties involved;

- store and manage the seed potatoes in accordance with the technical recommendations published by Belpotato.be;

- to prevent cross-contamination, do not store the seed potatoes in a room that is used to store storage potatoes or grains;

- ensure full traceability on your company if the seed potatoes come from different sources.

The challenges associated with the difficult supply of seed potatoes for the 2024 cultivation are enormous for every link in the sector. In addition to the extra costs, the yield and quality of ware potato production are also at stake. Moreover, it is in the interest of the entire sector to stabilize the declining seed potato area in the EU.

For more information, visit www.belpotato.be.