TRADE AND MARKET I NG Sitting at a table piled high with files in his office at the Ministry in Warsaw, the Polish Minister of Agriculture and Development of the rural environment, Jan Krzysztof Ardanowsky talks enthusiastically about his ambitious plans to give the potato sector in his country a new impetus. ‘In the potato programme, which will officially start next year and will run until 2025, we’re going to eradicate ring rot completely’, he says passionately. ‘W ith more than 2.5 million hectares, the potato used to be one of the most important crops in Poland. Both people and animals depended on potatoes for their food. In fact, it was the main source of nutrition for the pigs that our farmers kept. By the way, did you know that potatoes give pork an excellent flavour? Nowadays, they’re mostly fed soy and maize. And the potato has also become less important in the diet of the consumer, too. Per capita, consumption of potatoes has fallen from over 130 kilograms in the 1970s to around 90 kilograms last year. Luckily, potatoes are still important in Polish culture and tradition. Polish people still like them very much’, the Minister positions the current importance of the crop in Poland. In order to put the potato back on the map, a potato programme has recently been set up. ‘In our new potato programme, we work closely with the Polish Potato Federation, among other things, to develop a practical policy.’ What does the new Polish potato programme entail? ‘From the 2020 harvest year onwards, we want growers only to use seed that’s free of ring rot (Clavibacter michinganensis ssp. Sepedonicus). Infected seed potatoes are known to be a very significant source of contamination. The potato sector has achieved a lot already in the last fifteen years when it comes to control. During our EU membership, we’ve dropped from almost a quarter of infected potatoes to around 6 percent of infections in the total harvest. Our goal is to eradicate the disease completely in the coming years. In order to achieve this, we’ll require growers to buy seed potatoes only from registered growers from next year onwards. Furthermore, it’s mandatory that all seed potatoes are labelled, tracked and traced. The field checks will also be intensified. We won’t do this by sending more people into the field to carry out checks, but by developing more technology for this purpose. We’ll be bringing fast test modules onto the market, which will allow growers to test their seed on the farm. Furthermore, as an authority, we’ll also strive to make these modules available to growers free-of-charge. Because there will no longer be any use for potatoes contaminated with ring rot in the potato chain, it will be possible to offer possibly-contaminated lots for bio-fermentation from next year onwards. If a lot is infected, we’ll compensate the growers financially, so that they won’t sell their potatoes in the chain, but dispose of them to a bio-digester. For this purpose, we’ve compiled a list of companies where growers can take their potatoes. Furthermore, in collaboration with companies from the potato chain, we’ll invest in the transfer of knowledge about phytosanitary matters by the local agricultural extension services. Finally, we’ll impose higher fines on growers who refuse to cooperate, but we prefer to use a positive approach. To stimulate cultivation this year, we started an extensive irrigation stimulation programme in September 2019. The reason is that our growers are more dependent on irrigation than growers in other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. This is because the climate here has a greater influence on the cultivation of potatoes. We need to solve these problems. Especially because we know that the potato often grows on sandy soils, where there’s a lot of water stress. By stimulating irrigation on the professional farms, we expect an extra boost for the sector.’ What is your objective for the potato programme? ‘The ring rot quarantine disease limits us in international trading. By eradicating this organism, the sector will get easier access to international markets. In order to achieve this, a lot of national and international promotion is needed, which is why it’s important that the entire chain participates in eradicating the disease. Events such as the Polish potato days are important to spread the message to the sector further. In addition, we’ve drawn up a promotion programme in collaboration with the National Agricultural Support Centre KOWR. We’re going to promote the Polish products at home and abroad under the name ‘Polska Smakuje’ (Poland Tastes Great, ed.). In the coming years, the potato will be presented in the Polish national pavilions at the major trade shows and in campaigns in various countries. This fits in well, because export is important for our agricultural sector, as we are producing much ‘We’ll soon no longer speak of the EU-5, but of the EU-6’ more food than we actually need. Last year, we already exported 30 billion euros worth of agricultural produce to seventy countries. We initially see opportunities in potato export to the Middle and Far East. On the one hand, the increase in Polish potato production will depend on our export. On the other hand, the local market will also continue to expand. Very important here is the production of starch. We’re currently producing potato starch at three locations in our country. The demand for this product will continue to grow in the coming years due to the changing European plastics legislation. We see potato starch as a perfect basis, for example, for biodegradable straws and other disposable items that are currently made from non-biodegradable plastic. Furthermore, the demand from fast-food restaurants for high-quality French fries is increasing rapidly, but also supermarkets and traditional kitchPotato World 2020 • number 1 5 Pagina 4

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