TRADE AND MARKET I NG Switzerland hopes for an average harvest over 40 eurocents, this provides an income of 20,000 euros per hectare. When considering the costs, the lease comes to 1,000 Swiss francs per hectare. Buying land – if it ever comes up for sale – may easily cost 80,000 francs per hectare. At the beginning of May, he showed the emerging plants in the ridges which, after a brief period of rain, are developing well, he says satisfied. He also tells me that the cropping season started early in Switzerland this year. He’d already started planting at the end of March and he hopes to have his harvest in by late September or early October. Together with his father and his brother, Probst farms a further 65 hectares with other crops and they also keep a few dairy cattle. ‘I’ve noticed that potatoes are a very good addition to our cattle food’, Probst tells me happily. Besides being a potato grower, the young entrepreneur is also chairman of the Terralog Growers’ Association. This association has 65 members and organises four knowledge meetings a year, which are always very well attended. They are held both in the field and at the office. ‘The annual râclette evening in December is one of the highlights. That’s the moment when Ernst discusses the market and the growing season’, he tells us. Looking at the future, Probst is most worried about the increasingly-extreme climate. The high cost price of a minimum of 10,000 euros per hectare will make cultivating potatoes even more risky. He would like to expand his business, but it’s difficult to find experienced labour. Also, the annual salary, possibly up to 90,000 francs a year, poses a serious problem for employing staff. Average year is essential Fellow farmer Ruedi Fischer confirms in one of his fields in Bätterkinden that he’s pleased with the start of the potato growing season. The soil has a fine structure and the potatoes were planted early under ideal conditions. He notes that due to last year’s high prices, the acreage has expanded. He’s absolutely certain that, if the borders hadn’t been closed, growing potatoes at a cost price of 11,000 euros and a yield of 50 tons would have been impossible. On his 65 hectare farm, he grows 11 hectares of consumption potatoes and 4 hectares of seed. Like most crop farmers in Switzerland, Fischer runs a mixed To keep potato growing in Switzerland interesting for the growers, everything here is regulated. holding. This is why half the area is sown with grass, which is destined for the eighty dairy cows his brother milks. Grass in the cropping plan has the disadvantage he reckons that you can sometimes get problems with leatherjackets, which may cause damage to the potatoes. As chairman of the VSKP, the Swiss growers’ organisation that has four thousand members and a total of 11,000 hectares of potato land, Fischer wants to raise the cultivation of potatoes in Switzerland to a higher level. In order to achieve this, he closely collaborates with the traders and the processing industry and their interest and lobbying bodies Swisscofel and SCFA. In addition, VSKP is an important discussion partner for establishing quotas and potato prices. The leader also notes that an increasing number of vegetable processing companies are moving to the potato area to lease land. ‘This is a way for the crop farmers to earn money with fewer risks after an early crop of barley, for example. This development may possibly create competition for potato growing, which is why it’s important that this year needs to be an average potato year, so that growers are kept sufficiently interested in cultivating potatoes’, says Fischer. ● Jaap Delleman Because labour is very expensive, Michael Probst wants to mechanise his work as much as possible. Potato World 2017 • number 3 33 Pagina 36

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