PW-ACTUA Thirty-seven partners from the organic potato chain, including the Walloon Minister of Agriculture René Collin, signed the Robust Potato Variety covenant. on variety development, Edouard Vermersch from Desmaizières (Agrico France) gave a presentation on the genetic background of Phytophthora resistance, and Alex van Hootegem, an organic farmer from the Dutch province of Zeeland, shared his experience with copper-free potato cultivation and robust varieties. Van Hootegem was of the opinion that the development of new varieties should be a little faster. ‘We are currently at a standstill’, Van Hootegem expressed his dissatisfaction. However, during the recently organised Organic Trade Show in the Netherlands, it became apparent that the share of robust varieties is increasing rapidly. The organic chain organisation Bionext has established a rapid growth in the proportion of robust varieties in organic cultivation. In 2017, 30 percent of the area consisted of robust varieties. This percentage rose to 50 percent in 2018 and the organisation expects that, depending on the supermarket organisation, 65 to 100 percent of the crop area will consist of robust varieties in the coming year. The aim of the covenant is to cultivate only robust potato varieties in organic cultivation by 2020. Given the introduction of an increasing number of varieties with Phytophthora resistance by the potato breeding companies, this objective seems realistic. ● Belgian potato-processing sector experienced record growth The Belgian potato-processing sector experienced record growth in 2018 and exceeded 5 million tonnes of processed potatoes. However, in 2019 the sector is facing major challenges as a result of the poor growing season of 2018-2019. Belgapom, the association for the Belgian potato trade and processing industry, announced that in 2018 the 5 million tonne mark was passed with regard to processed potatoes. This is absolutely a new record and what makes it even more remarkable, is that it is the sharpest annual increase since the nineteen-nineties. As a reminder: in 1990, around 500,000 tonnes of potatoes were processed into fries, mashed potato products, crisps or flakes and granules. 28 years later, the sector can report an increase of 1,000 percent. In the meantime, Belgium has become the largest exporter of frozen potatoes in the world, exporting to over 150 countries. The term ‘Belgian fries’ is part of the country’s international food image, consisting of chocolate, beers and fries. The entire Belgian potato chain was actually responsible for the growth and development in the sector: next to farmers, for whom potatoes have become the most important source of revenues within arable farming, service providers and suppliers of machinery also experienced remarkable growth. They too are increasingly becoming global players with innovative products and technology. The use of potatoes as a raw material rose by 11.6 percent in 2018. This is by far the sharpest increase in the history of this still relatively new sector of the Belgian food industry. Increasing demand The remarkable growth is firstly due to the continued POTATOES 6.000.000 source : Belgapom 5.000.000 Belgium potato processing in the period 1990-2018. FRITES OTHERS 4.000.000 3.000.000 2.000.000 1.000.000 0 increasing demand for potato products on the world market. The ever-growing middle classes in Asia and South America are stimulating the demand for convenience food, including Belgian fries. Secondly, located in the heart of the European production area, the Belgian potato-processing industry can make use of an ever growing number of potato professionals and a unique logistical network with international ports nearby. Lastly, despite the setback of the 2018-2019 growing season, with exceptional drought and repeated heatwaves, the sector made good use of the large supply of potatoes in the second half of 2018. Quite a number of batches could not be kept and – in consultation with the growers – it was decided to process them in the autumn of 2018. ● Potato World 2019 • number 2 13 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 tons Pagina 12

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