TRADE AND MARKET I NG Table potatoes dominate the Chilean market Henríquez uses space aeration for this purpose. In his choice of storage and mechanisation, he’s been working for almost 30 years with the Dutch company Mexport, which is based in the Friesian village of Stiens. This export company was started in 1989 by seed potato grower Oane Porte. At that time, he grew potatoes for the Wolf & Wolf seed potato trading company, which is now integrated into Agrico, and as a member of the grower’s committee, he visited various sales areas. During one of his trips, he came into contact with potato cultivation in Mexico. After the son of a Mexican grower did his traineeship at the Frisian seed potato farm, Oane’s love for Latin America grew stronger. His sons Sake and Jitse are now active in the business. After years of pioneering and finding out about crop growing in the area, the mechanisation of the potato chain is starting to develop. ‘Our vision is to be active in potato mechanisation throughout Latin America’, explains Sake Porte. Every year, he travels through Latin America for about four months. ‘South America is beautiful, but there are many challenges in terms of politics, economy and currencies. That’s why we’re active in all the areas where farmers grow potatoes. In addition to dealing with economic headwinds, we can also link experiences from the different areas, share knowledge and be an interesting partner for the professional growers. It’s a longterm market. You need a lot of time to build up relationships. We’ve had to reinvent everything in the area. It’s certainly not a ‘copy paste’ of Western European mechanisation’, the son of the seed potato grower says. He sees the Chilean market as one of the most stable markets. ‘An example of not being able to copy the Western European way of working is the use of trailers. Because of the often long distances from plots to storehouse, growers use hoppers behind a lorry. As a result, a reception hopper with a large buffer capacity is less important than in Europe. The storage also requires a different approach. Because the tubers often come in at around 18 degrees C and hardly have any soil attached, forced aeration in box storage isn’t necessary. The space aeration system is good enough to dry and cool the potatoes here’, is the experience of the Latin American specialist. Because there’s little or no knowledge about storage, Mexport gives advice to its customers. In Chile, Felipe Henríquez works locally for Mexport. He knows the developments in the market and is a storage specialist. He monitors the storehouses together with the growers during the storage season. Partly via the internet and partly via personal visits. ‘This is an after-sales activity to ensure that the local people can build up sufficient knowledge, explains Porte. ‘In addition, we stay well informed about the investment plans of the farms’, he adds, with a smile. ‘My aim is to work together with companies, to take steps towards growth and so raise cultivation and storage to a higher level. I feel connected to the companies with which we’ve had a relationship for years, in both good and bad times.’ Victor Henríquez (l) and his manager ClAudio Hübner would like to mechanise further because good labour is scarce in Chile. Difficult to find labour Seed potato grower Henríquez also wants to mechanise his potato growing further. ‘On the one hand, it’s very difficult to find good labour and, on the other, investment in mechanisation is necessary to further improve the quality of the seed potatoes’, he tells us in a 60-hectare field. The harvest of the Red Fantasy variety is now in full swing. Henríquez explains that the volcanic soil can be easily sieved. The trick here is to keep soil on the harvesting belt rather than the driver having to lift less deeply. So you won’t see any cut tubers. However, you’ll definitely find a large number of bright-green tubers. It’s clearly difficult to build a good ridge in this soil which quickly falls apart in dry conditions. Perhaps deeper planting might be a solution, because deeper harvesting is not a problem here, Porte knows from experience. ‘Another challenge in cultivation is the high organic matter content of the soil. You never know when you might find additional nitrogen mineralisation’, adds manager ClAudio Hübner from the Henríquez company. ‘At the basis, we apply 60 kilograms of nitrogen to the seed potatoes. You also need to give lots of lime fertiliser and apply extra phosphate, because the high aluminium content in the volcanic soil fixes the phosphate.’ That’s why the potatoes also get 500 kilograms of phosphate per hectare. Since Henríquez leases the land per year, the landowner is also pleased with this extra application, because a part of the applied phosphate is also available for a subsequent crop. Pagina 16

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