Already millions lost due to extreme drought in Belgium; early potatoes suffering

During the months of March, April and May, there was much less precipitation than usually. The current month, June, is also very dry so far. Very warm weather has been forecast for this week. The influence on the cultivations is large, and there are many complaints from the potato and fruit sector. In Flanders, the potato sector is already talking about nearly 15 million euro lost. For all agricultural products combined, the Flemish government is talking about nearly 190 million euro. According to Romain Cools of Belgapom, especially early potatoes in sandy soil were affected by the heat and drought. “These early potatoes bridge the old and new season, and are contracted in moderation. It mostly concerns vegetable growers in West-Flanders for who these potatoes are an in-between cultivation. This region issued an irrigation ban just last week, which can influence the yield of potato and vegetable crops even more. In early potatoes, people are talking about a yield loss of 25 per cent.” More

Pepsico: ‘New emission targets keep global warming below two degrees Celcius’

Earlier this week, PepsiCo confirmed that its ambitious new target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction has been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative as being in line with what climate science says is necessary to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. The global food and beverage company has committed to work to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its value chain by at least 20 percent by 2030. Under its Performance with Purpose vision, PepsiCo has already had significant success in limiting its GHG emissions.  Continue reading

Japan’s potato shortage could last until the fall

Japan's usually robust range of potato chip products is likely to be limited until fall as Hokkaido, the major potato-growing region, recovers from four typhoons that hit it last summer. | ISTOCKHokkaido’s potato farmers haven’t recovered from last summer’s typhoons, which means consumers will have to wait until at least fall before the usual range of potato chip products returns to store shelves. The farm ministry expects the chip shortage to last until the island prefecture’s next harvest gets underway in September. About 80 percent of Japan’s potatoes are grown in Hokkaido. Potatoes used in processed foods account for roughly 30 percent of all production in Hokkaido. More

Potatoes to take root in Cambodia

Cambodia’s eastern Mondulkiri province will become the country’s first hub for potato growing after a successful pilot project, researchers say.  Cheang Hong, of the Potato Research Center at the Royal University of Agriculture, said a team spent several months studying weather conditions, potato varieties and farming.  Mr. Hong said some varieties need cool weather while some need warm weather. They identified Mondulkiri as the best place to plant.  He said the project confirmed that potatoes can indeed be grown in Cambodia, however the researchers were putting more effort into finding varieties to grow in provinces other than Mondulkiri.  The researchers are looking for varieties to grow in warmer climate provinces such as Battambang, Preah Vihear and Pursat.  “To find a proper potato variety to grow in both cool and warm weather provinces will take another three years,” Mr. Hong said.  Researchers brought around 24 varieties of potato from Germany, South Korea and Peru. A few were suitable for the Cambodian climate. More

US: WSU researcher warns Columbia Basin growers against planting too early

While the calendar may be telling farmers it’s time to plant vegetables across the Columbia Basin, mother nature is telling one potato researcher otherwise. Washington State University commercial vegetable specialist Tim Waters says the wet winter in the Tri-Cities is presenting challenging soil conditions for farmers and they should delay their planting. In addition, one potato farmer in Pasco is already making adjustments. “We’re waiting for the soil temperatures to get up a little higher around 45 degrees and we want them to dry out just a little bit more before we plant so it is delaying our planting just a little bit, we’re delayed by a week I think at the moment,” Pasco potato farmer Derek Davenport said. More

US: Uncertainty for seed growers

By Mike Telford – Chairman, UPGA Seed Division. Commodity prices are in the tank. Fresh table-stock potato returns in the West are a disaster; returns are below production cost for the fifth year in a row. Red and Yellow-potato prices are good but growers generally had a disaster on the farm side like what happened in the Red River Valley with heavy rains last summer. Fresh table-stock prices are higher in areas where United chapters actively pursue the market. Frozen-process contracts remain unsettled with negotiations swirling around from flat to down prices, and acres to be planted remain uncertain. All of this in spite of strong demand and finished product prices being up. Process growers nowadays not only have to know the volume and price of their contracts, but increasingly are uncertain about which variety they will need to grow for their customers. Net farm income is down which means farmers are once again farming their equity. Add to all of this the fact that potatoes are perhaps the highest input-cost crop grown, and also the crop with the highest risk. Is it any wonder there is a lot of uncertainty with seed growers’ customers? What is the seed grower to do? Continue reading

Argentina: Entry of Brazilian potatoes causes concern

The National Federation of Potato Producers (Fenapp), which has been affected by the climate and other factors that may have undermined the crop’s development throughout the country, expressed its dissatisfaction with the arrival of Brazilian potatoes at the Central Market. “We know there is a need for much more bilateral trade within the framework of regional integration and as a result of the creation of a common market such as Mercosur,” said the Vice President of  Fenapp, Mario Raiteri. “We could understand these imports if there was a decrease in supply of potatoes that led to a disproportionate increase in the price of food for the people of Argentina, but there is no such thing going on,” the leader added. The potato sector has been going through complex situations, such as climate issues, the high cost of inputs, and dollar inflation. “In addition, we have high employer contributions, expensive freight and its powerful impact on production areas far from large urban centers,” Raiteri stated. More

After strong growth, South African potato exports down 18%

South Africa is self-sufficient in potatoes. 2015 was an exceptionally good year with a harvest of 250 million 10kg bags, which fell to 214 million 10kg bags in 2016 due to drought and excessive heat. This year it appears as if the area under potatoes is somewhat less, but a better harvest than last year can be expected, says Dr André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes SA. Approximately 50 000 to 54 000ha is annually planted with potatoes. According to Potatoes SA, between 6 and 8% of South Africa’s total production of potatoes is exported to neighbouring countries, with a fraction destined for the Middle East and other parts of Africa. The value of exports reached a record 583 million South African Rand (€42 million) in 2014, according to the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz). However, explains Tinashe Kapuya, head of international trade at Agbiz: “From a volume perspective, exports for 2016 will expectedly be lower. We expect a fall from 155 667 tons in 2015, to about 120 000 tons in 2016 – which is an 18% decline.” More

Canada: Warmer, drier climate with plenty of variability

Since there is no immediate “fix” for the weather, Canadian potato farmers have to be ready for change and be adaptable, advises David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. The climate is changing. Although it may not seem like it during specific weather events – exceptional rainstorms and severe cold snaps – evidence predicts climate over the coming years will be warmer and drier. That will mean changes. “The farms that will continue to have success will be those that are willing and able to change,” says Phillips. “While there will be benefits to a warmer climate, there will also be drawbacks or disadvantages. Farmers will need to be adaptable to these changes, and Canadian farmers have demonstrated they are very good at adapting.” Although Phillips made the remarks at the Alberta Potato Conference in November, he says his comments are applicable to agriculture in general. The warming trend of the coming decades will push the production boundaries of many of the warm season crops even further north. It will mean a longer frost-free growing season, higher levels of carbon dioxide. On the downside, a warming climate could encourage more weed growth. It can also increase or change the complex of crop diseases and insect pests. Warm temperatures can increase heat stress on crops and also lead to drier or drought conditions. More

Bangladesh: Potato growers suffer from lack of gov’t. incentives

While potatoes usually play a significant role in the export market of Bangladesh, this season the Bangladeshi potato sector has been in a rut. According to Saifur Rahman of the export company Friends Eximp Enterprise, the current negative trend is related to the lack of incentives from the Bangladeshi government. “Last year, the government gave potato growers a 20% incentive for their production. This year, that percentage has been lowered to only 10%. Because of that, we can’t compete on the world market for potatoes. As we can’t cover our costs with the current prices in the market, most companies won’t export potatoes.” The potato sector of Bangladesh also had to deal with adverse weather, which has caused delays for the potato harvest. The main problem is however the lack of funding from the government. More

Tanzania: Are these the climate-smart potatoes?

Situated in the Northeast of the country, the district of Lushoto is part of the so called highlands of Tanzania where potatoes are traditionally grown. Due to heat and lack of resilient potato varieties, farmers would lose all the crop especially when they grow the local variety called Kidinya which is extremely susceptible to Late Blight disease. To address these issues, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), initiated a study aimed at developing more resilient potato varieties that can grow in both long and short rainy seasons and give higher yields. The study, initiated in 2013, was led by the International Potato Center (CIP) in partnership with Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Lushoto District Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Cooperatives Office (DAICO), YARA Tanzania Limited, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Lushoto farmers. More

Australia: Rallying together to support growers impacted by recent floods in Adelaide

Late last year, close to 300 growers with an estimated 1,500 hectares of land in the Northern Adelaide Plains were significantly impacted by severe weather conditions and flooding. These conditions caused around $50 million in damages and losses. Consequently, farmers in the region have experienced many challenges relating to low seed volumes to resew crops, decreased availability of fungicide to treat surviving crops, damage caused by weeds and insects, as well as widespread damage to infrastructure. To provide support for those impacted, AUSVEG, a national industry body representing Australian vegetable and potato growers, teamed up with the South Australian Produce Market to establish the South Australia (SA) Growers Flood Appeal. Established in October, this Appeal has effectively rallied support from the community, industry partners and businesses to provide much needed help to local horticulture growers affected. Speaking about the SA Growers Flood Appeal, Chief Executive Officer, South Australian Produce Market, Angelo Demasi said, “The SA Growers Flood Appeal is raising much needed funds to help with the purchase of seedlings and assist with the re-establishment of viable crops for the future.” More

US: Shore potato growers hope for better prices

Shore Potato Growers Hope for Better PricesThe bulk of potato shipments from Virginia’s Eastern Shore are chip-stock potatoes, and the 2017 market is looking up for growers of the variety. Potatoes constitute a small but substantial share of cropland on the peninsula, and nearly 30 farmers gathered recently to hear the 2017 market outlook during the annual Eastern Shore Agricultural Conference and Trade Show in Melfa. “Most of our best pricing years have occurred following decreases in production,” said Brett Richardson, marketing specialist for the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, who delivered the talk. “When we have a better year, it’s not because people are suddenly buying more potatoes. It’s very supply-driven, and when supplies are down in competing areas, we will have a better year.” Predicting this year’s potato market relies heavily on the fall harvest, which accounts for 92 percent of potatoes grown in the U.S., he said. As always, weather will play an important role in this year’s market, and that remains unpredictable. More

Australian potatoes: New crop ends spud shortage

Australia’s potato shortage is said to be over. Severe storms and floods across the country late last year resulted in a widespread potato shortage and a spike in prices. But Potato Australia chairman Frank Rovers, who farms in Cora Lynn, said the shortage was now over. “There is no shortage anymore and the new season has well and truly kicked in,” Mr Rovers said. “We haven’t started harvesting around here yet but growers in Thorpdale have just started.” Mr Rovers said processors would be taking orders soon. A spokesman for AusVeg said the national peak body had received reports that many potato growers had a positive outlook on the next crop thanks to drier weather conditions. “In late 2016 some potato growers struggled to plant and harvest potato crops however growers in Western Australia and Queensland were able to reduce the strain on supply,” the spokesman said. “The latest potato growing season is going well and it is expected that supply will soon pick up again, as long as no major weather events occur before harvest.” (Source: The Weekly Times)

US: Associated Growers sees mixed results for the red potato market

Associated-Paul-Dolan“For the growers that had potatoes, it will be a decent year,” said Paul Dolan, the manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc. Having potatoes if you’re a Red River Valley grower wasn’t necessarily a given for the 2016 crop. The river valley that runs between North Dakota and Minnesota was plagued by rain in the fall and then more rain — and mud — at harvest time. It was so muddy that even the most macho field equipment couldn’t conquer the mire. Dolan said after many spuds were entombed for a certain length of time, the quality was beyond hope and the potatoes were left in the field. On the other hand, in the Grand Forks, ND, growing area to the south of the district, the losses weren’t as bad. Red River Valley growers will be watching Florida for new crop red potato supplies. Florida’s growing weather had been good at least for the early part of the weather. Of course Florida potato availability will be influencing market prices. More

NZ fills Australia’s potato shortage

potato farmingNew Zealand potato farmers and processors are expected to profit from a shortage of the vegetable in Australia. The shortage was sparked when crops in the country’s southern states were hit with heavy rain and flooding last year. About 75 percent of New Zealand’s processed and frozen potatos are exported to Australia, with over 44,000 tonnes exported last year at a value of $55 million. Potatoes New Zealand’s chief executive Chris Claridge said exports to Australia are expected to rise even further this year. “What we’re projecting for the coming year is that we’re going to see an increase in exports into the Australian market, primarily because there appears to be a shortfall in production and a shortage of potatoes due to growing conditions.” That was good news for New Zealand’s 170 potato growers, he said. More

Australia: ‘We can’t get any’: Canberra takeaway shops battle potato scallop shortage

Owner of The Corner Takeaway at Queanbeyan, Steve Salmon. The shop has not had any potato scallops since October.A wet spring, including severe storms and floods, resulted in crop damage and harvesting delays on potato farms throughout Australia. And an unlikely result of the harsh conditions has meant Canberra is currently experiencing potato scallop shortage. And it’s proving to be quite an annoyonce for takeaway shop owners throughout the capital. “Probably a lot of them have given up,” Watson Takeaway owner Kerry Spanos sighed. “A lot of the shops are buying them frozen now. The prices have gone through the roof.” Bidfood, which supplies 80 per cent of takeaway shops in Canberra, has been without potato scallops for about two months. Sales manager Nick Moullakis explained a good quality potato scallop required a large potato – a rare commodity. “They slice the potato, then they batter it, then they blanche it, then when the customer comes in they re-fry it – that’s it,” he said. “The mashed one is like the McCains product which is popular in places like food courts. They had their time in the ’80s and ’90s and it’s not very popular.” More

Weather in Northwestern Idaho causes logistical issues for potato industry

Supply is looking very good for Idaho russets and quality is holding up. That market has been steady so far, but with the recent weather that North-western Idaho has been experiencing, it’s been causing some logistical issues. Aside from making sure trucks get out on time, “other than that it’s the normal course of business for potatoes,” says Eric Beck, Director of Marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group. Planting will begin in March but, as for growing conditions, Beck is optimistic about the amount of snowfall so far this year to help with water supply. “That’s not just in eastern Idaho, that’s clear across the state,” he said. “The same could be said for our operations in Colorado; we’re optimistic that the snowfall there will help out with the water situation as well.” Beck doesn’t anticipate too much ebb and flow on prices in the market, adding – where prices are currently at will maintain until at least the summer months when there might be a bit of a climb, “but nothing substantial.” More

Australia suffering from a potato shortage after wet and cold weather

The great potato famine is upon us. Forget about your potato cakes, crisps and hot chips, there is a shortage in our favourite vegetable. NSW is being hit the hardest, with heavy rain and cold winter months damaging our crops. Farmers say it’s the worst potato shortage in Australia’s history, and told Fairfax Media every state was impacted. “We probably just broke even,” potato farmer Anthony Failla said about the latest season. Potatoes are up to $9 a kilogram in major supermarkets and farmers are struggling just to put the vegetable on the shelves. It’s been a long food shortage too, with potatoes also in short supply last October. The potato industry was baked due to floods wiping out crops and wet grounds making it near impossible to plant more. More

Wisconsin potato industry positioned well for winter and spring shipping

TamasHoulihan2.2011Amid their winter potato shipping season, Wisconsin potato growers are enjoying a very positive season, according to Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Antigo, WI-based Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association. In a Jan. 11 telephone interview, Houlihan indicated that Wisconsin’s potato volume is down about 8 percent from the 2015 crop. One reducing factor was too much rain in August and September. Furthermore, 2015 brought Wisconsin a bumper potato crop. Wisconsin harvested 26 million hundredweight in 2016, down from 28 million the previous season. The 2016 crop yields about 430 hundredweight per acre. In the previous growing season, the figure was over 450 per acre. Furthermore, there was a 1,000-acre drop in 2016 plantings from 63,000 acres the previous year. “Wisconsin growers are still doing a good job of marketing and getting value for their crop,” Houlihan said. “We have excellent quality.” More

2016 northeast Michigan freshpack potato variety trial results

Potato growers gathered at Wilk Farms August 2016 for a field day highlighting the variety trial plots. Photo: James DeDecker, MSU Extension.In 2016, the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, Michigan State University potato specialist Chris Long and MSU Extension Presque Isle County partnered once again to conduct a table-stock potato variety trial. The trial was hosted by Wilk Farms near Metz, Michigan, and showcased 54 different varieties of russet, red, yellow, round white and novelty types. Varieties were planted in single, un-replicated rows, 50 feet in length on May 24. The field was not fumigated and tubers were planted 10 inches apart. Starter and sidedress fertilizer were applied by the grower at recommended rates according to soil analysis and best practices for the adjacent commercial field. This year’s growing season featured warmer than average temperatures and below normal precipitation. Temperatures were 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average for the month of July, and 6 F above average through August and September. More

UK: Walkers Crisps cuts water use and carbon emissions in half over five years

Walkers Crisps has successfully reduced the water and carbon emissions used in the growing of its potatoes by 50% since 2011 after implementing a series of measuring techniques to identify where savings could be made. The PepsiCo-owned producer’s “50 in 5” project aimed to cut the amount of water and carbon at its UK potato farms based in water stressed areas. The company worked with the Agricultural Development Advisory Service (ADAS) to implement a series of new measures to help its 100 farmers achieve this goal. Among them was the use of the Cool Farm Tool, a carbon calculator used to collect data on farms to identify emissions hotspots. Gavin Janaway, who grows around 40,000 tonnes of potatoes for Walkers each year at Whitewater Farm in Hampshire, explained: “The Cool Farm tool allows us to look at our whole farming operation. That encompasses everything from every field pass we do with any piece of machinery, anything we do with the grading and washing process for the factory, all through to the storage of the crop.” This data is then used by ADAS to calculate hotspots of carbon emissions to identify where to make savings. Continue reading

UK: Smith Period blight alert set to be replaced

Now 60 years old, the current methodology for predicting blight pressure, known as the Smith Period, is set to be replaced by an improved alert system expected to be in place before the 2017 blight risk period. Following research undertaken by the James Hutton Institute and funded by AHDB Potatoes, the newly developed ‘Hutton Criteria’ was described as ‘a significant advancement’ over the previous system. John Sarup, agronomist and specialist potato adviser for SPUD Agronomy, said: “Late blight is a concern for potato growers every single year and a tool for identifying high risk periods of disease development is crucial to help us protect our crops and give us the confidence to schedule control activities at the right time, to the right level. “However, in recent seasons, blight has been found on crops even before any conventional Smith Periods had been recorded, meaning the current tools and systems just weren’t reliable enough to support precision decision-making.” AHDB-funded research by PhD student Siobhán Roísín Dancey, at the James Hutton Institute, examined relationships between reported outbreaks and recorded Smith Periods, and conducted experiments to determine new thresholds indicative of high blight risk. More

UK: New risk criteria helps transform performance of Potato Late Blight alert systems

Late blight on potato leaf: At first, the spots are gray-green and water-soaked, but they soon enlarge and turn dark brown and firm, with a rough surfaceNew risk criteria which will transform the performance of Potato Late Blight alert systems has been revealed. Arising from research undertaken by the James Hutton Institute and funded by AHDB Potatoes, the ‘Hutton Criteria’ is a significant advancement on current methodology for predicting blight pressure, known as Smith Periods, now 60 years old this year. “Smith Periods have been immensely valuable in assessing blight risk to date. Originally developed by L.P. Smith in 1956, Smith Periods were an improvement on the previously used system – the Beaumont Criteria,” said Claire Hodge, Knowledge Exchange Manager for AHDB Potatoes. “But we need to continue to optimise in response to changes in climate and developments in technology and the Hutton Criteria provides that timely enhancement. More

UK: Good harvesting conditions but average yields for potatoes

With the potato harvest virtually complete, generally good harvesting conditions enabled many British growers to meet their contracts, however, yields and quality are average following a less than ideal growing season. AHDB market analyst Arthur Marshall says although harvesting had been a week or so behind average, there had been no significant problems with getting the crop lifted. Ben Sykes, who grows 220 hectares (550 acres) of potatoes near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, says harvesting went well. “It started a bit too dry and we had a bit of bruising but we had rain between October 10-14 which led to perfect harvesting conditions. We finished on October 28; we usually aim to finish by the end of October. “Yields have been very average. We fulfilled our contracts but there was not a lot of surplus. Last year the stores were overflowing. Quality is ok. We had the odd little bit of secondary wounding early in harvesting but hopefully we will be ok.” More