Potato World Vision – No genetic progress without a healthy sector

October 10, 2022
Author: Peter Ton

At the end of May, during the World Potato Congress in Dublin, I had the opportunity to meet many colleagues from the sector. This congress, which is organised (officially) every three years, brings potato science and technology closer to growers, breeders, traders and the processing industry.

The mood, as usual at these congresses, was positive. Worldwide, a great deal of attention is being paid to the unique characteristics of the potato. Innovative ideas to feed the world in a sustainable way were discussed as well. However, I wasn’t entirely happy when the three congress days were over. In the corridors, I spoke to colleagues from seed potato trading houses in Denmark, Germany, France and Scotland. Their experience was unanimous: they had barely been able to scrape a living.

The main reason for this is the sharply increased unrest and uncertainty in the world, combined with the tail end of Covid. The Scots were confronted with problems in North Africa, the Germans in Russia and Ukraine. The French saw the demand in their home market change drastically towards French fries and were left with large quantities of varieties for which the demand had fallen away. All this is affecting the resilience of the businesses and is leading to fewer investments in the development of better, sustainable varieties.

The fact that the Dutch seed potato sector has performed reasonably well despite all these uncertainties is due to our way of working together in the chain. The pool systems, along with good communication between delegated growers and the trading company, also provide a risk-reducing effect. But that’s not going to be enough to survive the future. We need to invest in much more far-reaching forms of collaboration. For example, in consolidation through scale enlargement and the outsourcing of services, which we still consider as our core tasks. All this, in order to become more efficient, so that seed potatoes will remain affordable for the end user, and of course also for the arable farmer throughout the world. The Dutch seed potato sector has proven to be strong and resilient over the years thanks to their unique collaboration throughout the chain. I see this strong connection between the farmers all around me and that makes me feel good. Let’s hold on to each other as strongly as that in our own unique chain.

The content of this blog is the Potato World Vision column by Peter Ton (Managing Director, Stet Holland), published in PotatoWorld magazine 2022/03.

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