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Russia Proposes Procedure for EU Seed

POT europe (3)

The Russian ban on imports of European potatoes has led many Russian importers to turn to the Egyptian, Moroccan and Pakistani shippers. They cannot wait for the lifting of the boycott. When importers switch back at the last moment  to European supllies, this will seriously disrupt the market. Many importers have purchased for the March and April inventories. Take not that transport takes about three to four weeks. If the Russian border opens up to Europe, this will result in oversupply and lead to strong competition between European and African suppliers. 
In the beginning of February, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (VPSS) proposed a procedure for exports of seed potatoes from the EU to Russia. This procedure is: after the VPSS receives an application from an EU country planning to ship seed potatoes to Russia, VPSS specialists would take samples of the potatoes from the prepared shipment, test them in Russian laboratories and then, based on these test results, they would make a decision on allowing importation. After the seed potato is imported into the country, regional branches of the VPSS would conduct phytosanitary checks on the imported seed potatoes. Russia is looking for cooperation with national organizations like Rosselkhoznadzor on plant protection from exporting countries in controlling seed potatoes prepared for shipment to Russia. As consequence of today’s ban from Russian, importers are buying new potatoes from Egypt and Israel, paying significantly higher prices than in Western Europe. 
NB

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Bart Diversifies with Frozen French Fries

POTATO belgium BART natalia

“Like many other producers, we brought some brand new products to Fruit Logistica,” reports Jurgen Duthoo, sales manager of Bart’s Potato Company. “We launched the production of frozen French fries at our own factory. It’s a kind of natural evolution from fresh to frozen potatoes that helps balance trade and offers more strategic possibilities, because some years demand is high, and others, it is more profitable to process the potatoes. Our frozen potatoes can be stored for 2 years.” Established 40 years ago under the name of Lamaire, Bart’s Potato Company is family-run and specializes in potatoes of all types and for all uses. Their clients are retailers, wholesalers, food service and the processing industry. “Five years ago, we began marketing a new line of frozen French fries,” explains Jurgen. “We wanted to study the market and we found out that the market is not saturated yet, so we started production at our own factory. Commercial volumes will be available as of September or October, 2014.” Bart’s Potato Company exports its products throughout Europe and worldwide to the Middle East, Australia, South America and many other destinations. Their annual turnover in volume reaches 250,000 t of potatoes. NB

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Ibérica de Patatas

PATATA patataiberica

Despite a rise in turnover of 40% in 2013 caused by a sharp increase in the prices of consumption potatoes, the Spanish leader still markets a volume of 129,000 tonnes. 

“While we have seen a slight drop in consumption since 2013 because of high prices, we are keeping our forecasts the same for 2014 since prices are still falling and speculation is not expected,” says their director Pablo Jimenez. In their commitment to local produce, on 15th March they launched the campaign for primor potatoes from Málaga, the earliest variety in Spain. The company supplies more than 20 items (varieties) in all kinds of packages of washed, unwashed and fourth range potatoes. “We have been working with potatoes for over 50 years as suppliers at the source and destination,” explains Pablo. Ibérica imports about 7,000 tonnes of seed, supplying over 1,000 partner farmers. Soprano (Meijer), Universa (Gopex) and Voyager (HZPC). 
Above all, the company promotes sustainable, environmentally-friendly cultivation. “We are also very ecological as regards distribution, using a package produced with 70% lower CO2 emissions,” says Pablo. They also optimize productivity in packaging, with a large packaging and handling capacity of over 1,000 tonnes/day. They operate 5 packaging lines, 4 washed lines and 1 unwashed, with 10 machines for weighing and 20 for packaging. Their strategic location in Mercamadrid minimizes delivery times. A pioneer in R&D, their strong commitment to fourth range potatoes (fresh and peeled) achieved its goals last year with more than 4,000 tonnes distributed through the foodservice industry. They made a new investment of €1.5 million with a new production line to quadruple their capacity. The fourth range now accounts for 5% of their sales and keeps on growing. Ibérica de Patatas is the only potato supplier with ISO 9001, IFS and certification for its services to its customers. “We stand for healthy nutrition with potatoes, as a foodstuff that is very low in calories and rich in minerals.”  
PE

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Will European prices remain low?

POT europe (2)

Mediterranean production: winter crops down 50%, prices higher

Despite fairly regular export activity from France and the Netherlands, prices in European ware potato markets decreased in January and February. The main reason lies with the processors, who provided almost no demand. They had bought considerable volumes in November and December for late delivery in order to complete their needs beside the pre-season contracted tonnages. It should also be remembered that they are probably less competitive than their American “colleagues” in some markets (in Asia and South America). 
Over the same two months, producers remained reluctant to sell at low prices (below 120,00 €/ton) as they were optimistic about a market recovery later in the season. Stock enquiries in February revealed contrasted pictures: more potatoes in storage than last year in France, Great-Britain and Belgium, related to the higher final production in 2013. Dutch figures showed higher stocks, but with a higher proportion already sold. Those figures, associated with the sudden increased demand by some traders, led to slight price increase in the first days of March. 

Unpredictable markets until the end of the season
A first influence comes from the early crops: processing earlies were planted mainly in the first week of March in Germany (Rhineland), and planting started in the second week in Belgium (Flanders). That’s more or less one week earlier than the ‘normal’ period but will they grow later? Will Russia finally open its border to European potatoes? Or will the market remain too quiet with scarce processing demand?
The export activity from Dutch traders hasn’t been bad but the relevant volumes were insufficient to change the price trend during the first weeks of 2014. 
Compared to last year, the cumulative totals at the end of January (see charts) show better trade to Germany, eastern countries and Italy, but that didn’t offset the lower exports to the United Kingdom. As far as more distant destinations are concerned, imports were markedly down in Africa and America. French exports at the end of January showed similar trends to the main destinations.

Israel and Egypt
In December 2013, the Egyptian and even more so the Israeli early potato crops were affected by snow, frost and generally cold and wet weather. The Israeli crop was planted in hot conditions at the start of December and was then affected by the cold weather at the end of the month. Low tuber numbers were reported, the consequences of which are only being felt now: lower tonnages (up to 50% less for the winter crop) and higher prices (particularly for the Israelis).
In the first two weeks of January, 15,000 t of Egyptian earlies were sent abroad, mainly to Russia. At the onset of February the price of Egyptian earlies was around 51 €/100 kg delivered to Russia. From February 15–20, the first Egyptian earlies arrived in Ukraine at prices of 60–64 €/100 kg. 
At the beginning of March, 123,000 t of Egyptian earlies had been shipped abroad, that is twice as much as for the same period last year. Over January and February the Russians imported 38,000 t against 3,449 t for the same months in 2013. During the same period 21,000 t were shipped to Europe, which is down a bit on a year ago. 
In 2013, the Egyptians exported 420,000 t of earlies. In autumn 2013, it was estimated that 2014 exports would be around 450,000–500,000 t. To date, the Russians have imported far more potatoes than last year, not only round varieties like Spunta but also higher-priced waxy (firm fleshed) potatoes. At the start of March, Russian buyers were paying 45 €/100 kg FOB Alexandria.
Nevertheless, two factors which could slow down Russian imports are, on the one hand, more cases of brown rot (Ralstonia solanacearum), two cases having been found in early March in the Black Sea port of Novorossisk, and, on the other hand, global yields. Following the cold spell in December, reports indicate that Spunta yields fell from 24 t/ha last year to 10 t/ha this year, and that for waxy potatoes, yields are around 7–8 t/ha this year instead of the average 17–19 t/ha last year.

Israel
Russian and Polish buyers were paying between 48 and 50 €/100 kg mid-February for Israel news, with prices easing at the start of March to around 40–45 €/100 kg. Some Israeli crop were sent to north-western Europe (starting with the UK) but at much lower tonnages than in 2013. The cold and wet weather (snow!) around Christmas affected the crop and growers were getting 42.25 €/100 kg for their potatoes at the beginning of March. 
Until mid-March, Israeli earlies were mainly going to the UK. Maris Peer were paid franco in the UK at 72.50 €/100 kg. Up to March 5, there were 6.000 t free of taxes.

Cyprus
The Cyprus winter crop (planted end October – beginning of November) was a good one and was harvested in January-February and sent to north-western Europe (mainly to the UK, a small amount to Germany) and Greece. The last of the winter crop was cleared around mid-March.
The spring crop is looking good and harvesting started in the second and third week of March. Due to the mild weather, the harvest could be 10% greater than last year, when frost damaged the spring crop. Other sources say the dry and hot weather (above 20 °C mid February) could affect the final production figures.
Last year, 71,000 t of earlies were shipped, most of them (24,000 t) to the UK. This year a good deal of the crop will also be going to Greece, the Balkans and eastern Europe.

Southern Italy
Early potato areas in Sicily and around Naples have been extended, probably around 30%! Last year 14,760 ha were planted and this year it is 16,400 ha. In 2009, there were nearly 21,000 ha of earlies in Southern Italy. Due to cold and wet weather at the start of the year (the whole of January and early February), some of the crop was planted later than usual, and the rest was slowed down. The first big shipments will arrive late in north-western Europe, that is around April 15.

Southern Spain 
In spite of planting 15–20% more earlies than in 2012–2013, the early area is smaller than the 2012 one. About 90% of plantings around Seville were done between 15 December and 15 January. In the Cadiz region, 60% of the potatoes were planted on schedule, then the rain came and the rest of the planting was done weeks later due to the bad weather. In the Murcia region, the traditionally smaller early potato area has been extended. 
In Andalusia, 1,847 ha of extra earlies were planted this season (1,445 ha last season) and 4.102 ha of earlies (4,108 ha last year). Last year’s production of extra earlies was 34,497 t while this year it was 33,000 t (-4.3%).
First Majorcan Lady Christls arrived in north-western Europe (mainly the UK) at the end of February (at prices around 95–100 €/100 kg), and first Maris Peers were reported in the UK in the third week of March. 

Portugal
From the start of January to late into February it was rainy and cold in Portugal. Plantings were done weeks later than normal, but areas already planted suffered from cold and excess rain, and even flooding, such as that striking early potatoes in the Tejo valley. In early February, 20–30% of the early potato area had been planted. The delays have also affected seed potatoes and seen their quality deteriorate. This could reduce total yields, even if the early area has been extended 10 to 20%.
Last year Portugal sold 49,000 t of its early potatoes abroad, of which 11.000 t went to Germany.
PL

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Pomuni, the «most reliable supplier» of fresh & frozen potatoes

pomuni

With the introduction of its 3 packing stations and their entire supply chain, the company run by the fourth generation of the Muyshondt family aims to become the most reliable supplier of fresh and frozen potato products in Western Europe. “We are now at the stage of rationalizing our fresh packing activity and the supply chain to the packing stations,” explains their managing director Hans Muyshondt. Heavy investments have been made at Pomuni Trade in Ranst, Pomuni Fresh in Thorembais-les-Beguines and Pomuni France (near Dunkerque). After the acquisition of the 2 packing stations in Wallonia and France in 2010, Pomuni started an integration process at each level of the supply chain. The family company organized a large variety fair for the first time with the participation of all the producers and customers, with demonstration of all the varieties being tested or produced. Dirk Cornelis, growing and procurement manager: “We are ready to achieve 100% satisfaction among our customers, providing constant quality at superior standards.” All the farm contracts are concentrated in 2013, the management of the stock is also now unified and the 3 packing stations are constantly audited in order to improve any critical point. 
“Today we are able to supply new customers in other markets with complete uniformity and the highest quality standards.” Most Pomuni customers have been dedicated on a long term basis, some of them for more than 40 years. “We already supply our specialties to German, British and Nordic customers.” All formats can be delivered, from 1kg to 25Kg. At the same time, Pomuni innovates on the domestic market with new attractive packaging, giving the product better visibility and transparency. Every item is supplied with the customers’ desired guarantee of quality standards. The company is IFS and BRC certified to a high level, and all of its contracted farmers comply with the GlobalG.A.P. standards.
“We give great emphasis on local produce, which is more sustainable and comparable in quality with the best qualities grown in France.” Pomuni also continues to position itself as the top Belgium potato importer, with a 50% participation at Primimport, specializing in trading in early potatoes from Mediterranean countries like Israel, Cyprus and Spain.  The company annually trades in 220,000 tonnes of washed and packed potatoes, as well as frozen products from mashed potatoes like pommes duchesses, pommes noisettes, croquettes, waffles and smilies. “We supply nearly all the Dutch and Belgian retail chains,” says Hans. 
“To increase our position in sourcing, we also work closely together with breeding companies like HZPC, Meyer, Agrico and others. Strategic partnerships also are important in seed potato varieties. In order to improve our reliability for our customers, we sometimes multiply dedicated varieties. “For example, we have been doing this with Exempla for more than 10 years,” explains Dirk. Exempla is a firm seeking variety, with slightly higher dry matter than the standard firm skin variety, with a specific taste.  PE