TRADE AND MARKET I NG Switzerland hopes for an average harvest Not self-sufficient Despite the high prices, the Swiss can’t entirely supply their local market from their roughly 170,000 tons of potatoes for the processing industry and 115,000 tons of table potatoes. This means that Switzerland partly depends on imports. Arn explains that, every year, Switzerland has to import a certain amount of potatoes, with a low import levy of 6 francs per 100 kilograms to allow access to the market due to the terms of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) agreement. This applies to a total of 18,250 tons of seed, table and industrial potatoes. ‘Subsequently, in August, the Swisspatat Market Committee of growers, processors and traders meet again to estimate that year’s actual yield on the basis of a trial lifting scheme. Based on these estimates, the Committee can decide to increase the amount of potatoes. This request is ultimately approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. It is a fact that, so far, no import quota has ever been approved without the approval of the growers’ organisation’, says Arn. Because of the difficult growing season of 2016, Switzerland has again imported a lot in the past storage period. ‘The government aims to bring the market demand and the amount of available potatoes into balance. In order to offer professional companies the opportunity to increase the available amount of imports, for the first time this year, half of the 6,500 tons of consumption potatoes were sold at auction. We’re using the import quota for high-quality potatoes’, Arn explains. He also explains that importing potatoes is a bureaucratic and complicated affair. ‘As a foreign exporter, you definitely need a partner in Switzerland who can supervise the import properly. At Terralog, we handle the entire Migros table potato imports, also for our competitors. We know our way in the Netherlands and the partners with whom we can build up a market. This year, we had some weeks with over 20 lorries which, depending on the customer, required either more or less administrative work. We mostly worked together with two Dutch haulage companies. The right haulier is important to supply the quality and service our customers want. That gives our Swiss buyers confidence’, Arn explains. If extra potatoes are needed to meet the demand, such as this year, Swisspatat increases the import quota. ‘It’s important that you have a quota, because the import levy is then only 6 francs per 100 kilograms, as opposed to 64 francs per 100 kilograms if you don’t have one’, Arn emphasises. In their modern building, Terralog packages and markets 65,000 tons of potatoes every year. Import quotas in Switzerland for the 2016 harvest (in tons, source: Swisspatat) Categories Seed potatoes Table Potatoes Processing potatoes Total Basic WTO quota 2,500 18,250 Increase in 2016 3,500 60,000 Total quota 6,000 6,500 23,500 30,000 9,250 69,250 87,000 105,250 Delivered (%) 96.7 99.5 93.1 95.1 Varieties List provides access to the market In Switzerland, it takes 4 to 5 years to have a potato variety registered for the national Varieties List. It’s also absolutely essential for the Swiss to have suitable varieties on this list, otherwise it would be very expensive for them to import seed for these varieties. For unlisted varieties, an extra import levy of 40 euros per 100 kilograms must be paid. For listed varieties, the import levy is “only” 1.20 euros per 100 kilograms. From this levy, 95 eurocents are paid into the surplus fund. This fund has been introduced to remove bad quality potatoes from the market. From the remainder, 6 eurocents go to the producer organisations, 4 eurocents to the farmers’ union and 15 eurocents to the trade organisation Swisspatat. The latter uses the money for promoting the potato. Every two years, in the admission procedure, the Agroscope research station in Zürich-Reckenholz registers three processing, three table and three French-fry potato varieties. Since 2015, it has become possible for private businesses to have their varieties registered on the recommended Varieties List without any official testing being required. In 2016, the Varieties List Committee accepted the Swisspatat’s Jazzy and Vitabella varieties. This shorter procedure, in which the market decides whether or not a variety is suitable, saves us a great deal of time and money. We’re not looking for exclusivity in the varieties, but what we are looking for is volume to get easy access to the market. In this way, you can build a leading position compared to fellow companies. In Switzerland, too, suitable varieties are the key to opening the companies’ doors, is Arn’s experience. Yet, Terralog and other companies still import non-listed varieties every year. ‘This year, for example, we’ve imported seed of the early Solist variety, with which we can do really well in the market. Because these tubers are very thin-skinned, we had special packaging developed for them. It stops unattractive discolouration and extends the tubers’ shelf life by 3 to 5 days. We market these early potatoes in a very striking packaging. For this variety, the growers received a price of 1.45 euros per kilogram in the first ten days. With an average yield of 15 to 18 tons per hectare, that’s not a bad price. However, a grower Potato World 2017 • number 3 31 Pagina 34

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