TRADE AND MARKET I NG Switzerland hopes for an average harvest needs to earn that much because, due to the extra import levy, seed is very expensive and the cultivation of the crop is rather risky. The supermarkets are also doing well with a generous margin, and even succeeded in selling these special early potatoes at 3.90 euros per kilogram’, Arn tells us. Size important for import seed Simon Stalder is the Terralog seed potato specialist. He says that there are four businesses in Switzerland that produce seed. These are Fenaco, SEMAG, St Gallische Saatgut and ASG 1809. The umbrella multiplication organisation, Swisssem coordinates the distribution of the varieties across these businesses. They only multiply the 34 varieties that are on the Varieties List. The planning of the seed import depends on market demand. This calculation takes place once a year at the end of August. Usually, the growers provide higher yield figures to limit imports, Stalder knows from experience. The import of seed is therefore a much talked-about topic in Switzerland.‘ ’We grow a lot of our own seed, but often need 2,500 tons of extra seed besides the WTO quota. As the seed potato growers in Switzerland have a firm say in the matter, and prefer to sell their own seed first, it’s a complicated game to agree on an extra quota’, is Arn’s experience. Stalder adds that most consumption growers order their seed in the autumn. ‘We buy it in and sell it to the growers. As soon as the market demand and availability become clear, an extra quota may be called for. During the Dutch Varieties Presentation Days in November, we order the amount still needed. The import of seed starts after Christmas and continues until the end of March. Luckily, we received all the seed we ordered in the autumn. We pay good prices, and we want the best material. Cultivation is very expensive, which is why the quality of the seed is more important than the price. Moreover, the difference in price between the local and the imported seed must be paid into the seed potato fund. If we buy seed at 50 euros per 100 kilograms, for example, and the local price is 90 euros, we must pay 40 euros to Swisspatat. This fund, which currently holds about 1 million euros, is used to solve problems for the growers, things that went wrong during the growing season or during storage. So, as a trade, we have fixed prices’, Stalder explains. The Swiss pay the import levy based on the kilograms, so there’s a lot of discussion about the size of the seed. ‘The Swiss seed size runs up to 50 millimetres. That’s why we prefer to import small seed in order to reduce the import costs and to help the growers as much as possible. We often import Agria up to 55 millimetres, while we can only sell seed up to 50 millimetres. For us, 35 to 45 millimetres is much better. In France, growers supply 32 to 40 millimetre seed. That would suit us much better. The Austrian sizes of 32 to 47 millimetres are better still. What we’ve noticed is that customers also want to pay more if the size is right’, Stalder says. All local workers active In Switzerland, only the local businesses are active. ‘Because the market is closed and production so expensive, we can only Despite the high prices, Ruedi Fischer (l) and Ernst Arn remark that growing potatoes in Switzerland is very risky. sell locally-produced chips’, Arn explains. A big player in this field is Frigemo in Cressier, a subsidiary company of Fenaco. This company is licenced to supply the McCain brand in Switzerland and it has been producing chips for McDonald’s ever since 1976. The company currently provides this market with the Innovator variety. Besides this, KADI in Langenthal and the Migros subsidiary Bischofszell Nahrungsmittel AG (BINA) are big players in the French-fry market. KADI sells Agria chips to Burger King. This makes Switzerland the only country in the world where this fast-food chain sells yellow chips. ‘Agria is currently the biggest variety in Switzerland and so also the biggest processing variety. However, we’re also seeing new varieties such as Fontane and Challenger coming up. At Terralog, we’re currently introducing the Lady Anna variety by seed potato company Meijer in Kruiningen, to KADI and BINA’, Arn explains current development. Both Zweifel and BINA produce French fries for the domestic market. Challenges in the cultivation In this special market, it’s a challenge for Swiss growers, despite the high prices, to grow potatoes profitably. ‘Last year, due to the wet spring with lots of washed-away ridges and high disease levels, it was hard to keep up with Phytophthora spraying. The potato crops were stressed throughout the season’, Michael Probst, potato grower in Koppigen clearly remembers. On his undulating fields, he grows 15 hectares of potatoes of the Annabel, Erika and Challenger varieties. The plots have very varied soil, from sand to heavy loam, and are situated at 400 to 600 metres above sea level. He told me that mechanisation is a challenge on the small mountain fields. Labour is very expensive, which is why he wants to mechanise his work as much as possible. For example, his potatoes are harvested straight into boxes which are then transported to the Terralog storehouses. He inspects the potatoes as much as possible while the machine is actually harvesting on his land in order to get less than 10 percent of tare in storage, and to leave 99 percent of the clods behind in the field. In an average year, he yields 42 tons of table potatoes per hectare and 50 tons of chips potatoes, Challenger for example. With a potato price of 32 Potato World 2017 • number 3 Pagina 35

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