Corona is forcing the potato trading houses to think about a different set-up of the traditional variety shows this year. A number of companies opt for an event online, others have decided to postpone the shows for a year. In this series on Akkerwijzer, the trading houses talk about their showpieces and the challenges. Today in part 3: Agrico. “The competition is fierce, also from abroad.”
Agrico strives to breed varieties with broad disease resistance and a high yield and harvest certainty for the grower. “We are looking for the right varieties for every area in the world,” says commercial manager Wieger van der Werff.
The product managers know the preferences of the growers and the climatic conditions in each region where Agrico is active, says Van der Werff. “It is a joint effort of product managers and customers to find the right potato for the right area. They test the varieties in the countries themselves and jointly check the ‘behavior’ of the potato. But the most important thing is that they know the market together. ”
Agrico is putting three young innovative varieties in the spotlight this season: Spectra, Levante and Babylon. Spectra is a variety for the European market with good yields and a good taste, says Van der Werff. The variety is suitable for all retailers and for the traditional markets on the European continent.
Levante is a variety for the retail and more traditional markets. The potato, which can be used by the consumer for various purposes in the kitchen, has a long tuber shape, with a reasonably good dry matter and is resistant to phytophthora. Babylon is more or less a lookalike from the Agria. The potato can be used for the industrial production of chips and chips, but also for home-made chips, says Van der Werff.
According to the commercial manager, 2020-2021 will be a difficult season. Normally, this is the time when a number of major markets are about to close, he says. “That includes personal contact and that is why the variety shows are so important. That is now all gone by corona. But the competition is fierce, also from abroad. I’ve been in the business for 30 years; we have not experienced this in the last 15 years. ”
Van der Werff sees a devaluation of the currency in African and Asian countries due to the corona and economic crises. “Many of our customers give their customers pre-financing, the debt is then paid back after the harvest. That now seems to be failing. ” In addition, the automatic routing of container transport is disrupted for some destinations, he knows. “Instead of a container ship, for example, we sent a cooling boat to Sudan. Our agent in Iraq is even considering transporting potatoes by truck, because there are no more containers to be found. ”
Waiting for market recovery
Wieger van der Werff does not expect a recovery on the potato market for the time being. As long as there is no vaccine against corona, the situation will not change any time soon, he thinks. “Before the whole world is vaccinated and there is movement in the world market again, we will be a few years later,” he fears. “But the crisis is passing, although it may take a long time before, for example, the value of devalued currencies returns to an acceptable level. However, the potato sector is also a patient sector. After all, growing a variety can easily take 10 years. We are used to something. ”