Tholen-at the moment they are at Warnez Potatoes making a lot of noise. “However, we are waiting for a little rain to move on. Last week it was quite dry so we had to wait for a rain so we can get back to work full” ” says Geoffrey Delbaere. “Fortunately we were able to grub up a nice amount of potatoes in the past two weeks.
Due to the drought that has affected Belgium in recent years, the number of tubers per plant is lower than normal. Because of this, the kilos are a little behind, but the calibers are on the hefty side. “Our cultivators ensure that the calibers do not get too big, because we deliver to the retail and have to meet a certain size. In order not to make the potatoes grow too big, we grub up a lot earlier than last year,” says Geoffrey. “I expect the overall efficiency to be slightly lower than in 2019, but that it will not be as low as in 2018. “The average number up to per hectare in 2018 was well below 40 tonnes/ha, this year we will be somewhere around 40 tonnes/ha.
“We have also noticed that the potatoes have a high underwater weight due to the drought and the heat. The underwater weight determines how flowery a potato cooks. This year it looks like the normally boiling potatoes are less boiling than they should be,” says Delbaere. “To prevent this, all our steaming potatoes are grown in fields that have access to irrigation. We also grow a fair share of our potatoes in France, where the irrigation network is larger than in Belgium. In total, some 50% of the area in Belgium and France is irrigated.”
The demand for potatoes has been a little behind in the last few weeks. “Because of the warm weather, the question was quite disappointing. When it gets hot,you’ll find out the same as the question. In the meantime, it is a lot milder and the demand is swirling again. There are also some market problems due to the old stocks of the processing industry. Because of the coronacrisis, the processing industry still has old potatoes in the stocks and the grubbing up of the new potatoes started early this year, putting some pressure on prices. We do expect supplies to run out and they will need new potatoes soon. Then prices will recover,” says Geoffrey.
“For some years now we have been testing at Warnez the grubbed potatoes on the remains (residues) of plant protection products. The laboratory tests showed that 80% of all potatoes no longer have residues of these plant protection products. The remaining 20% on which residues are still found are always below the legal limit. Every season we manage to increase the percentage and our aim is to find zero residue on the potatoes. The next step is to stop applying plant protection products to certain varieties at all. Together with the Covenant robust potato varieties, we are investigating certain varieties that are resistant to certain diseases. This is the ultimate sustainability and this is what we as a company absolutely believe in,” concludes Geoffrey.
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