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Chinese increase potato consumption but frozen imports fall

Large French potato crop


China’s MY2020/21 fresh potato production is projected up 3% to 99 million tons, mainly due to expanded acreage. According to Chinese customs data, China’s 2020/21 frozen french fries (FFF) production is forecast to rise 10% to 330,000 tons in response to increased domestic demand.  China’s MY2020/21 FFF imports are predicted to drop 10% to 96,000 tons, following importers concerns regarding testing for Covid-19 on imported frozen foods.

According to the 2020 China Agricultural Outlook Report, over the next ten years, China’s potato production area will increase by an average of 0.4% annually. In addition, thanks to increased yields, potato production is expected to increase by an average of 0.9% annually for the next ten years.

China’s overall potato consumption remains stable but a slight increase is forecast over the next decade. The processing sector accounts for about 10% of China’s total fresh potato consumption.  About 12% of potatoes are used for seed potatoes, 5% for feed, with storage loss accounting for 13%. 

China’s 2020/21 FFF imports are forecast down 10% to 96,000 tons. This drop comes off the back of a 26% fall in imported volumes in 2019/20. The US was the largest FFF exporter to China in MY2019/20, although its market share has fallen from 66% to 44% due to price competition from the EU. The next largest importers, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany together accounted for 52% of China’s FFF imports in MY2019/20.   


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Georgia increased its export of stone fruit and will raise its potato crops

Georgia increased its export of peaches and nectarines by 40%

By the end of August, Georgia exported more than 23,000 tons of peaches and nectarines, or 10,000 tons more than YOY in 2019, informed the Ministry of Agriculture of the country. Fruit are basically exported to Russia (15,500 tons), Armenia (730 t) and Azerbaijan (500 tons). The rest was exported to Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland and Slovenia. Pilot lots were also shipped to Singapore and Qatar, informs agency.

Thanks to CIP, Georgian farmers will raise their potato crop

Three years ago, the International Center of potato (CIP) initiated the project intending the development of potato production in Georgia. In the frame of that three-year project, 76 new potato varieties were introduced for the selection, and after careful trials, the most suitable varieties in terms of yield and disease resistance were selected for production in Georgia. The negotiations regarding the second stage of the projects are being currently held.

“The representative office of CIP in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is the regional headquarter for 7 other Caucasian and Central Asian countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenia and Kirgizstan,” says Rusudan Mdivani, regional delegate of CIP. “We opened several laboratories of in vitro selection of potato in some of these countries and carry out the researches devising to test new genotypes, adapt them to local climate and soil conditions, etc.”

Potato is the strategic product for Georgia, it is one of the most popular vegetables in consumers’ everyday diet. Thanks to CIP’s project, Georgia will not just satiate the domestic market, but will help to expand the export to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and even to Iran.

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Expansion of North Western European potato area

Large French potato crop

The area dedicated to potato production in Europe’s five largest potato countries expanded by 2.4% to 609,000 ha of consumption potatoes – the largest ever. The data is based on provisional estimates released by the NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers). This represents an increase of 8.4% compared to the five-year average.

The expansion is fairly uniform across the continent, with France and Belgium leading the way. It is still too early for figures from the UK.

In all five countries, planting was earlier this year. The early processing potatoes in Germany and Belgium will be harvested mainly during the middle of July – one week later than average. During their last meeting, NPEG members agreed to expand in line with the growing demand for processing and export. As there will be no carry-over from the 2018 harvest, the next potato season will be longer than usual and might need more potatoes. The current low levels of available potatoes in stock and the later harvest of early processing potatoes represents a challenge for the processing industry.

Producers in all countries are now anxiously hoping the water situation improves, as water levels of reservoirs and ground reserves are far below average. Some restrictions have already been made in this regard.

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New rules for inter-European potato trade

The modifications in Rucip 2017 focus strictly on the transfer of the European secretariat to Brussels and on the possibility of creating European lists of experts and arbitrators for countries without a National Rucip secretariat.

As of this January 1, the Rucip European Committee secretariat will effectively relocate from Paris to Brussels.

From the same date, a new set of rules and practices will apply to inter-European trade in potatoes (RUCIP).

In a press release, the Rucip European Committee, composed of the European associations Europatat (Potato Trade), EUPPA (Potato Processing) and Intercoop Europe (Cooperatives), said the new version, more commonly known as Rucip 2017, was validated in November this year.

“For all disputes on contracts signed after the 1st of January only the RUCIP 2017 version will apply,” it says.

The first European rules were established back in 1956 through the efforts of the EU for the wholesale trade in potatoes. They defined professional practices and set up a simple and efficient procedure for expert assessment and arbitration. Rucip has since been amended various times, with a profound revision coming into force in March 2012.

The modifications in Rucip 2017 focus strictly on the transfer of the European secretariat to Brussels and on the possibility of creating European lists of experts and arbitrators for countries without a national Rucip secretariat.

For more information:
Rucip website


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Sunny markets return for seed potatoes

The seed potato crop now covers almost 80,000 ha in North-West Europe

The main countries producing seed potatoes are the Netherlands with 40,180 ha (unchanged compared to 2015), 20,023 ha in France (+3.2%), 15,912 ha in Germany (-2.4%) and 2,257 ha in Belgium (-9.2%). Annual changes in the multiplication area indicate which variety is finding its place on the market or which is hardly moving. The chart gives the figures for the last 5 years for the main varieties by category.

Mid-early varieties gaining space

All the main varieties in the early segment are declining, while the mid-earlies are gaining space. Premiere is present in the 4 countries but comes second in the earlies ranking, behind Sinora, due to a sharp decline (21%) this year. Friselander, Anosta and Berber complete the top-5. In mid-earlies, Felsina (multiplied only in the Netherlands) is on the rise. Artemis (fresh market) is decreasing and Miranda remains steady. Processing factories are looking for fewer earlies and mid-earlies as they want to continue later and later into July with old crop tubers kept in high-performance storage facilities.

Varieties for seed export markets

This is a very competitive market where it is hard for new varieties to find a place. Spunta always leads the ranking thanks to demand from the whole Mediterranean basin (the South of Europe and North Africa), and this year has gained some hectares, rising to 8,000 ha in these 4 countries. Desiree, Kennebec and Jearly are increasingly produced less and less and replaced by a lot of varieties adapted to local growing and ware conditions. The European export trade is mainly towards the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

Varieties for European fresh market

Annabelle dominates the firm flesh category (waxy potatoes) but is losing hectares for the second consecutive year. Charlotte (mainly multiplied in France) is increasing this year but has been on an up and down trend for the past 10 years. Hansa and Nicola are decreasing but still ahead of Allians. Jazzy is booming and has taken over the 6th place from Cilena which has been falling for 4 years now. In floury varieties, Agata is by far the top variety, ahead of Monalisa. Both are present only in France and the Netherlands, with similar areas in each country. In this category all the breeders are searching for a variety with a (very) high yield, good washability and an acceptable frying colour to supply the European and export markets. As this is not easy to select, the existing varieties are holding their place.

Processing varieties

These varieties are being pushed higher by fast growth in European processing activity, with major developments worth noting: Bintje (-19%) has slipped to 4th place behind Fontane (+23%), which has clearly taken over the leadership, Agria (+12%) and Innovator (+10%). Challenger has lost 18% and returned to its 2014 level. All the other major varieties are also on the increase with the exception of Ramos (-35%). Lady Anna is booming (+75%) at almost 400 ha of seed multiplication. The crisping varieties are dominated by Lady Claire, with more than 1,000 ha, despite a 15% fall this year. It is followed by Hermes (+24%), Lady Rosetta (-4%), Pirol (+4%) and VR808 (+8%). Changes are expected in this category in the coming years.

Fast improvements inorganic varieties

Organic potato production has been increasing very fast in recent years. Varieties with more resistance to late blight are difficult to develop so a variety like Agria is still mainly used (thanks to its relatively good tolerance to late blight on the leaf and very good French fry quality). Carolus, Vitabella and Sarpo Mira are going up considerably. The other varieties in the top 8 are going down.


Seed potato image: ‘Early Rose variety seed tuber with sprouts’ by Mathias Karlsson (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons



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Mahindra HZPC unveils aeroponics seed potato plant

Mahindra HZPC launches its state-of-the-art aeroponics facility in Mohali for early generation seed potato production

MHZPC, a 60/40 joint venture of Mahindra Agri Solutions Limited (MASL) and HZPC, has this month inaugurated its state-of-the-art aeroponics facility in Mohali, India.

The new facility will produce the best in class seed potatoes via an innovative process and the latest technology.

In a press release, Mahindra said this will translate into “high quality seed potatoes for the Indian farmer and in turn for consumers.”

Speaking at the inauguration of the facility, Mahindra Agri Solutions Ltd. CEO Ashok Sharma said aeroponics will drastically change the landscape of agriculture, providing world class seeds to farmers and thus leading to higher productivity and increased cultivation.

“Consumers too will feel the advantage as they will be able to experience more and differentiated choices in food, a proposition that Mahindra very strongly believes in,” he said.

Built to support Mahindra’s seed potato business, the aeroponics facility will grow plants suspended in a closed environment, without the use of soil. Necessary nutrients are delivered to the plants through the spraying of atomized nutrient-rich water to the suspended roots and lower stems.

Mahindra said aeroponics will be highly useful both for the B2B and B2C segments. The processing industry will be able to launch new varieties into their production programmes faster, as Aeroponics will help reduce the time to market for new varieties by 50%.

For farmers, this will translate into virus-free world class seeds which will increase productivity by 10-30%, providing the much needed fillip to farmer incomes, it said.

Mahindra HZPC’s aeroponics facility has a capacity to generate 3 million minitubers, and the first production batch is slated to be out in January, 2017. Mahindra HZPC also has plans to launch six new potato varieties, half of which will cater to end consumers and the rest at the processing sector.

Mahindra HZPC owns another facility in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh; which together with the new aeroponics facility is expected to generate 15 million minitubers within a couple of years.

HZPC is a world leader in potato breeding and seed potato trade and Mahindra a US$ 17.8 billion multinational group based in Mumbai.

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Higher potato production for China in 2016/17

In 2016/17, China’s fresh potato exports are forecast at 400,000 tons, up slightly on 2015/16’s 381,424 tons. Malaysia, Vietnam, and Russia are its top 3 export markets, accounting for over 65% of its total fresh potato exports in 2015/16.

China’s MY2016/17 fresh potato production is forecast to rise 3% to 100 million tons due to an expanded potato acreage and normal weather conditions in major producing areas, says the USDA in a new GAIN report.

The majority of China’s fresh potatoes are used for table consumption. Industry members estimate 60% of Chinese potatoes are consumed fresh in households and restaurants, while about 15% are used by the processing sector and about 10% for seed potatoes. Losses in storage account for as high as 15%.

The share of processing potatoes is expected to grow in the long term in China with increased development of potato products.

China’s top 3 potato export markets: Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia

China does not allow market access for fresh potato imports from any suppliers due to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) concerns. However, US government agencies are working with their Chinese counterparts to gain market access for US fresh potatoes for processing to China.

China’s exports of fresh potatoes have held steady at 300,000-450,000 tons annually since 2010/11, a negligible amount considering China annual production of about 100 million tons, the report says.

In 2016/17, China’s fresh potato exports are forecast at 400,000 tons, up slightly on 2015/16’s 381,424 tons. Malaysia, Vietnam and Russia are its top 3 export markets, accounting for over 65% of its total fresh potato exports in 2015/16.

Rising demand, production of frozen french fries (FFF)

China’s 2016/17 production of frozen french fries is forecast to rise 9% to 230,000 tons, driven by increasing domestic demand from quick serve restaurants and convenience stores.

China’s FFF imports for 2016/17 at expected to total about 160,000 tons, up 5% on the back of greater domestic demand. The US continues to dominate China’s FFF import market.


Source: China: Potatoes and Potato Products Annual, GAIN report CH16051 9/26/2016


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Tesco announces new long term contracts for potato growers


Tesco says it will issue contracts worth £12 million over three years to help support British Agriculture and become the first UK retailer to introduce new long term contracts for potato growers and packers. It said the move will help safeguard the future of UK farmers who supply the supermarket chain and provide customers with the best quality produce. 

“Through the Tesco Sustainable Farming Group – Potatoes (TSFG-Potatoes), growers will benefit from greater financial certainty, allowing them to invest in their businesses for the future,” it said.

The TSFG-Potatoes will be made up of a collection of producers and industry experts from across the country, and will aim to build stronger relationships through the whole supply chain to ensure customers are offered the best range and varieties at the right price.

The group will also take some of the pressure off British potato growers, who are faced with the challenges of difficult growing conditions, declining consumption and an increasingly volatile market, Tesco said in a press release.

Tesco’s Commercial Director for Fresh Food, Matt Simister, said there isn’t a single simple solution to resolve the uncertainty faced by many potato growers but the new contracts “will help to bring more confidence back into the whole potato supply chain and build a truly sustainable British potato industry.”

Under the new scheme, from September, producers will be given direct contracts with Tesco and a three year rolling commitment which will guarantee in advance, the volume of the crop that the supermarket will buy.

TSFG growers will also receive a price based on their production costs, which will take into account inflation, farming inputs like the cost of fertiliser and the additional expenses involved in growing high quality fresh produce for customers.

“By developing a structure to guarantee a fair price for their produce, Tesco hopes the scheme will pave the way for other retailers to work more collaboratively with growers, and help secure the future of the British potato industry,” the retailer said.

Over the past two decades, the number of potato growers across Britain has fallen by over 85% per cent from 14,000, as an unpredictable trading environment, poor harvests and producers leaving the industry in favour of alternative crops.

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Special agro-machinery edition of PotatoEurope

photo article mai

Experience the actual processing quality of equipment under real-life conditions

Dynamic demonstrations are the cornerstone of the PotatoEurope event – taking place September 14-15 in Villers-Saint-Christophe in France – and are set to play an even more significant role this year. They will now be conducted on 23 irrigated hectares of the Magnum variety, with three main sections:

  • harvesting,
  • reception/storage, and
  • optical sorting.

A total of 23 demonstrations have now been confirmed: 15 harvesters (AVR, Dewulf, Grimme, Pouchain, Ploeger and Ropa), 3 optical sorting areas for washed potatoes (Dewulf-Miedena, Tomra and Visar Sorting) and 5 receiving areas (Downs – AVS, Eurodirect-Dewaele Briche, Dewulf-Miedena, Grimme and AVR).

Increasing the area made available for harvesting naturally maximises visitors’ options for observing and appreciating the demonstrations, giving them more time to make comparisons and allowing them to choose their future investments. The harvesting demonstrations will be arranged in three groups, letting visitors focus their attention on their own particular area of interest.

  • Group 1 will feature self-propelled three and four-row harvesters.
  • Group 2 is devoted to two-row towed and self-propelled harvesters.
  • Lastly, Group 3 will feature only towed one or two-row combined models.

Final schedules will be posted on the PotatoEurope website:

About PotatoEurope

PotatoEurope is an international event dedicated to potatoes that takes place each year in one of the event’s four partner countries (Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands). After three years abroad, it comes back to France this year with the hope of repeating the success of the last time the event was here in 2012. Over 10,000 visitors, including 3,000 from 50 other countries are expected.

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Italian potatoes: smaller quantities but big on quality

Early (or rather first early) potatoes make up around 23% of the Italian total and are mainly grown in the south of the country. Sicily, with over 7300 ha, grows 50% of the crop, followed by Campania with 20%, Apulia with over 12% and Sardinia with 9%.

Even if Italian potatoes account for only a small proportion of the European crop, they are highly distinctive.The surface area for potatoes in Italy was close to 50,000 ha last year, with a capacity of slightly over 1.4 million tons in total. In quantity terms this is a very modest crop in comparison to the major European partners, amounting to only 3% of the European output. Early (or rather first early) potatoes make up around 23% of the Italian total and are mainly grown in the south of the country. Sicily, with over 7,300 ha, grows 50% of the crop, followed by Campania with 20%, Apulia with over 12% and Sardinia with 9%.

Selenella, the selenium-rich potato

Selenella is top in the packed potato segment (which has been growing in recent years), having risen to a 17% share of this segment in value terms. Selenella also enjoys premium positioning, an indication of the value of its high quality, based on a number of characteristics: Italian origin, traceability certified by ISO 22005:2007, quality certified by the QC-Qualità Controllata label and sustainability. In 1990, in Bologna, potato growers and marketers decided to join forces and set up the Typical Potato of Bologna Consortium (Consorzio per la Patata Tipica di Bologna) with the aim of promoting and enhancing the value of the area’s potato production. Nowadays, the Italian Potatoes of Quality Consortium (Consorzio Patata Italiana di Qualità) is a limited-responsibility consortium company with 13 members: 2 are potato producers’ organisations from Bologna and the remaining 11 members – 3 cooperatives and 8 private companies – market the product nation-wide, coordinated by the consortium.

Romagnoli reduces production

Expectations for the Italian potato season are not exceptional: after the unprofitable prices of the 2014 season, the weather has done the rest, leading to a much reduced 2015 crop. “The season this year has been influenced by two factors,” explained Roberto Chiesa, commercial manager of Fratelli Romagnoli. “The first is that following the effects of the 2014 season, the worst of the past 10 years, many companies have elected to cut their surface area this year. The second is to do with the climate: rain during the sowing period in Emilia Romagna caused the loss of 3-5% of the surface area and on top of that, the very hot weather this summer reduced the yields by nearly 30%.” Fratelli Romagnoli Spa was founded in Bologna in 1928. Starting as a farm, from 1960 onwards it has developed strong expertise in packing and marketing seed and fresh potatoes and in both fresh cut and vacuum packed processed products made from potatoes of all the best varieties.

Pizzoli reports smaller yields and a tight market

Smaller yields than the average in recent years as a result of the extremely hot summer have led to a very tight market. These are the factors influencing the potato season, reports Pizzoli, one of the top names in the sector. “In terms of quantity, the product is thinner on the ground but comparable to a normal year, given that the 2014 crop was above average,” explained Andrea Marchesi, commercial manager of the company’s fresh division. “As a result, the market is tight because of high raw material prices.” This situation could even lead to bringing forward the next sowing: “The shortage is likely to last until the early or new potatoes arrive, which at this point could even bring the harvest forward to the beginning of April,” Marchesi said. Nowadays Pizzoli is one of the biggest brands in all the volume retailers and in bars and restaurants throughout Italy, and is also looking towards foreign markets, particularly Asian ones such as Japan.

Sila Potatoes PGI is looking forward to a good year

The 2015 Patata della Sila PGI crop is in line with previous years. These potatoes are among the excellences of Italy in this sector. They have been known and appreciated since 1811 and are now grown in 26 municipal areas in the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro. The Sila Potatoes PGI covers six varieties, grown at over 1000 m above sea level, with a particularly high starch content. “From the marketing point of view we are focusing strongly on raising the profile of the PGI product, which is positioned in a high market segment and sold in 1.5 kg formats at €0.9/kg,” said Albino Carli, director of the PPAS (Produttori Patate Associati) consortium. “We are not aiming for the conventional product but favouring niche and quality crops.” The PPAS (Sila potato growers’ consortium) was founded to promote and enhance the value of potato growing on the Sila plateau. It has 41 members, both farms and cooperatives, which means it controls an aggregate system of over 100 growers, producing over 300 tons of potatoes a year on around 800 ha. 

This article appeared on page 71 in the Potato section of issue 142 (March/April 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that edition online here.