TRADE AND MARKET I NG Table potatoes dominate the Chilean market to growers deliver their fresh potatoes from December to March. After that, the south takes over the market until June. This means that there’s a gap during the Chilean winter months of June through August. By investing in storage, growers in the south can also supply markets and supermarkets with high-quality products during these months too. Even today, there are still growers who use the ground for storage but because of the high-organic matter content of the soil, especially in the south, Rhizoctonia quickly becomes a problem. The cropping area in the south lies on the 10th to 9th latitude. In the winter, it’s an average of 8 degrees Celsius and sometimes it freezes. The annual rainfall is quite high at 1,500 to 1,800 millimetres. Nevertheless, some professional growers think it is necessary to irrigate their potato crops during the growing season in order to be able to harvest sufficient quality. The high organic-matter content of the soil, up to 25 percent, is the rule rather than the exception. As a result, the tubers often quickly contract scabies. So it’s important to have sufficiently-moist soil during the tuber initiation. In addition, growers also use products such as Amistar to get tubers that have good skin quality. European inspiration The Opitz company is a family business where Ottmar has set up the packaging of potatoes. His brother Eduardo is the farmer, his sister Karin does the marketing in Santiago and his wife Hanna is responsible for the financial administration. The Opitz family started growing potatoes six years ago, it used to be a dairy farm. In order to be distinctive, the family has specialised in the supply of table potatoes in the high-quality segment. Ottmar, who is of German origin and is therefore very good at that language, has travelled a lot in Europe and is inspired by the development in the supermarkets. He now supplies the Chilean Jumbo, Unimarkt and Walmart supermarkets. The farm has a total of 1,250 hectares of arable crops, of which 320 to 350 hectares are potatoes. I don’t want to grow potatoes more often than The Opitz family supplies the Chilean Jumbo, Unimarkt and Walmart with small-packaged potatoes supermarkets. 1:4 , Opitz emphasises. Two years ago, the company invested in a Tolsma storage facility in order to deliver good quality potatoes from the south for a longer period of time. ‘Our customers ask for a high-quality product throughout the year’, he tells us bluntly. ‘This requires proper storage in order to ensure that the expensive crop with a cost price of 7,500 to 8,000 euros per hectare is optimally marketed’, he explains. When Ottmar takes us into his company buildings, his focus on automation and mechanisation immediately catches the eye. He says that the cost of hiring labour is constantly increasing, while the skills of the employees are falling. Six years ago, the company employed 50 people and today there are only 12. ‘This has greatly improved the quality of the work’, Ottmar concludes. ‘We’ve also registered the total cultivation of potatoes. And that’s necessary. We see the same trends here as in Europe, but only after 10 to 12 years’, Ottmar points out. He invests a lot in the further development of the table potato market. For example, he has purchased a Tomra Halo optical grading machine to optimise the quality of the final product. ‘Because we’re already grading and packaging in the south, only a net directly-suitable product goes to the largest marketing area in Santiago. Small packaging firms around Santiago are forced to take the lower-quality tubers too, which means extra transport costs. We no longer have that problem’, explains the enthusiastic entrepreneur. This year, he’s supplying supermarkets in the region for the first time directly from his own company, using small trucks. His latest product is an aluminium tray with two baking potatoes neatly wrapped in foil. At this moment, he notes that the largest turnover in the supermarket still comes from the unpackaged potatoes. His biggest variety is Rodeo, but he’s also carrying out tests with new varieties. He is currently researching the Red Fantasy variety. ‘In addition to new varieties, good-quality seed potatoes form a strong basis for the crop’, he explains. Many challenges in South America Opitz, like many other consumption growers, buys his seed from the specialised seed potato grower Victor Henríquez in Puerto Varas. At Henríquez’s Semillas Llanguihue company, there was a big crowd when we arrived. It’s the end of March and the harvest’s in full swing here. Via two Miedema storage machines, the yield of his 260 hectares of seed potatoes disappears into the over 12,000 tons storehouse. For the most part, the storehouse is equipped with mechanical cooling. Potato World 2018 • number 1 15 Pagina 14

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