After a busy period until the week before Christmas, potato export in Europe is now marking time. The coming weeks will show which way it will turn, according to Jan Westhoeve of Westhoeve Potatoes from Ouddorp in the Netherlands.
“The Dutch factories appear to be arriving on the market, and farmers are holding on to their trade a bit more as a result. But if prices for export have to be increased, more countries will start dropping out.”
The trade is selling at good prices. “Levels are around 44/45 cents,” Jan says. “The mood is quite firm, particularly because Belgium is reporting higher prices. However, in export that profit can’t be made yet, and I really feel as if we’ve reached maximum price levels. The majority of the export was sent to Africa for a long time, but Mali and Senegal will be closing their borders to protect the local harvest. I expect that export to the Caribbean will continue.”
Qualitatively, the potatoes are good enough to last the season, according to Jan. “Particularly if prices go up, because fewer and fewer will then be needed. All in all, it’ll become exciting in the next few weeks. I expect factories will play first fiddle, and that we’ll be marking time with our export, but that’s fine.”
It’s currently fairly calm on the Belgian potato market. Growers are waiting, because they know they’ll sell their potatoes no matter what. “This is such a difference from last season, when we were saddled with the potatoes. This year we have plenty of room to sell the potatoes,” says Heike Valcke of Aardappelen Valcke. “The potatoes will first be supplied according to contracts, and then we can find out how many potatoes the factories will need. Everyone prefers waiting for the free market. No one will be emptying their sheds yet, but nobody’s certain prices will rise either.”
Contracts are currently being drawn up for the early potatoes. “This is going fairly well, although seed potato prices are extremely high. The additional charge we get for the contracts will be used for seed potatoes,” Heike concludes.