The early potato harvest suffered most from the drought. There was talk of a loss of 15 million Euro a month ago. There is no new figure at this time. “The potatoes that were in sandy ground have certainly been damaged,” says Romain Cools of Belgapom. Sources estimate a loss of a quarter of the yield. He continues: “Thankfully it rained a little in the last two weeks. Test harvests show that up to 10 tonnes per hectare has been added in recent weeks. This is somewhat positive news. The spuds didn’t grow anymore on some of the plots. Due to the drought and the heat the foliage growth stopped and the stalks were dried out. Plots that were irrigated due to the stoppage of the watering ban are giving a reasonable turnover.” The industry anticipated the shortages, though. Romain certainly isn’t negative about the coming storage harvest.
“On the request of Belgapom and the agricultural organisations a dialogue was opened between the growers and their buyers and in most cases agreements could be made. Some received a stay of harvest and moved the contracts forward. By leaving the potatoes in the ground for longer, they could still gain volume, which means the minimum contract conditions can still be met.” Trade and processing have to bridge this period. They will have to turn to more expensive Belgian potatoes from the old harvest or imported new potatoes.
“The situation between planting and sprouting was favourable. Of course the storage potatoes have suffered from the drought and heat stress, but there was rainfall in time. A lot depends on the coming weeks and the month of August. Sprouting has been discovered among some varieties, but this doesn’t have to be a disaster. We shouldn’t forget that the area in Belgium and neighbouring countries has increased strongly and so I expect a normal harvest for storage potatoes to be possible.”