Summer is the potato harvesting season in Castile and Leon, the region with the most area of tuber cultivation nationwide. Patatas Melendez, a company based in Medina Del Campo, is a leader in the fresh potato sector, with 19.1% market share in Spain, 180 million kg marketed, about 30,000 square meters of facilities, and more than 350 workers(during the first months of the pandemic increased its workforce by 25% due to increased demand).
At a time when potato consumption has skyrocketed, and when the trend towards healthy, natural and local foods is booming, we interviewed Juan Manuel Coello, director of operations at Patatas Melendez, to learn more about the moment the sector is experiencing.
How is the potato campaign in Castile and Leon?
If we had to qualify it in any way it would be that it is being a good campaign, quiet, and that it has advanced due to the weather conditions. It is important to emphasize that in our case in Patatas Melendez we have achieved great stability by having done a good planning of the planting and the varieties. With this we have managed to ensure that the supply is staggered and not concentrated, something that used to be the main problem in the harvests in Castile and Leon in the months of July and August. In short, good quality, good returns and accompany the market: a good campaign for the entire value chain.
What are the potato varieties being grown in the region?
To talk about the varieties that are planted here you have to take into account two scenarios: the early potatoes, and the mid-season. Within the group of the early, which are the ones we are finishing with now, are the Colomba, the Amber, the orchestra and the Sunita. If we talk about the half-season, with which we are starting, there are the Monalisa, the Lucinda, The Soprano, and then, later, we will mess with the sour. All of them are potatoes of exceptional quality, suitable for typical summer culinary uses highly appreciated by consumers, and that satisfy the demand in an excellent way.
How are the next few months planned at market level?
The truth is that we are in a moment of great expectation. Everything will, of course, depend on how the general situation progresses, on how consumption evolves, at the industrial level, the HORECA channel and the other sales channels… from the agronomic point of view, there is more production, more area planted at European level, and our objective is to bet as much on the product of Castile and Leon, to give continuity to the products of our farmers, and to the agreements we have with them. We continue with our bet here and charging here, convinced and determined to keep it that way.
The potato Interprofessional has recently been created in Castile and Leon, what is your assessment of this?
The Interprofessional potato is something we have been demanding, an absolutely necessary tool for the sector. It has a key role to promote the product, so that more and more potatoes are consumed, which is its main goal. We come from years in which the consumption of fresh potatoes is falling, and what we are looking for is a turn, that the consumer increasingly asks for more potatoes, and that they bet on the fresh and national product. The Interprofessional is also a good meeting point to share news at the research level, and to share industry information and data so that there is an immediate common knowledge and accessible to all.
What we need to achieve is that there should be an Interprofessional at national level. It is a good first step that we have created one at the level of our community, which is the largest producer in Spain with 40% of production, but the example of success that we see in other countries is an Interprofessional one at national level. It can help us greatly in this much needed promotion, and in translating it into an increase in potato consumption.
What is the recipe for positive developments in this sector?
At Patatas Melendez we have been developing a strategic line of agreements, contracts, Planning year after year, and all this is bearing fruit and materializing in successes. As a leading company we bet on the crops here, and we are setting a certain pace. Good prices are being achieved, producers want to grow potatoes, there is adequate profitability for the whole value chain, and that is an achievement for the whole sector.