Disastrous season for potato in Castilla and León

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Prices have plummeted to lower levels than those reached in 2014


French potato is already reaching the markets and competing with the Spanish production. / Archive

The potato season in Castilla and León this year is renowned for its quality, but it is paid at prices that are well beneath the farmer’s expectations. The president of the Association of Operators for Potato of Origin of Castilla and Leon (Asopocyl), Marcos Martín, assures that the season, which is at its equator, is in a “catastrophic” situation, since prices have sunk below those of 2014 because “productions have overlapped and they have not been duly phased because of the weather. Marcos Martín has explained that while in producing areas of Segovia potato is being sold “at decent prices, its price in other places is not higher than five or six cents per kilo.”

The sector manager in COAG responsible for potato, Alberto Duque, has coincided with Martín in describing the situation as “disastrous” for growers, and sets the “appropriate price to cover and be above the costs of production” at 20 and 22 cents/kg for first class washed potato.

According to the latest national average prices published on a regular basis by the Ministry of Agriculture, potato prices in week 35 (from 28th of August to 3rd of September 2017) stood at 11,27 euros/100 kg, 9.55 % below the figures reached the previous week. During the 35th week of the 2016 financial year, potato at origin was being paid at 31,78 euros/100 kg; in 2015, the price was 16,63 euros/100 kg and in 2014, it only reached 12,42 euros/100 kg.

According to Marcos Martín the solution to concentrate the potato supply is not “to store potato”, since “French potato, which directly competes with the production from Castilla and León, is being loaded in half of Spain.”

The head of the potato sector in COAG, in addition to the oversupply caused by the early arrival of product from France, “when it usually arrives in November,” considers that the market “is also saturated” because contracts with German exporters have been lost this year.

“There are batches of potatoes that are not commercially attractive in Spain because they are smaller, but they are in Germany, to which it must be added that in Castilla and León the season started in Andalucía with full storage freezers,” explained Duque.

Uncollected Potato

Meanwhile, the president of the National Potato Storage Association (Asonal), José Ramón Aguado, has assured that the potato season in Castilla and León, the main Spanish production area, will be “very short, because it will end in October” and there will be a lot of “product that will remain uncollected” on the field.

Aguado, who is also president of the National Potato Forum and president of the sector of this product within the organization Fepex, explained that he does not expect as much product to be left on the field as in 2014 —150,000 tonnes, according to his figures—, but “There will not be enough time to market everything because product is already going to France.”

In his opinion, this season is being “disastrous” after a “record year” in production and prices registered during the financial year of 2016. Unlike last season —that ended in December — now “the European market is saturated with an oversupply of potato,” explains José Ramón Aguado, who has estimated that an extra 4.5% more surface has been planted of this crop.

For the president of Asonal it should be urgent for the whole sector to undertake and establish once and for all the regional inter-professional association, in order to be able to access community funds to promote this product. “We have to get the consumer to choose it for its quality, because it is much better than other light skinned, imported potatoes,” for example.

The president of the legally constituted but not yet operational, Inter-professional for Potato of Castilla and León, Yolanda Medina, has confirmed that this organization represents nearly 40% of the production, but she is “optimistic” that it will increase to the 51% necessary for the entity to start operating.