There are factories that have not been supplied with potatoes by France in the last 10 days that have started to use Spanish potatoes.

Late potatoes from León have seen a new rise in their prices over the last week, as confirmed by the latest session of the Lonja de León. “Here in the late area, specifically, the most in demand is the Agria. We are the last potato producers in Europe and this rise is due to the fact that there have been fewer potatoes in general”, points out Guillermo Mantecón, a potato grower who is a member of Prodeleco.

The bad weather in Europe’s main producing countries, especially the excessive rainfall, has meant that part of the crop has remained on the farms and another important part may have suffered damage because it was not in the best condition for conservation. “According to what we are learning, especially in the Netherlands, there has been a lot of damage to the ware potato crop but also to the potatoes for seed, because many lots did not pass the controls to be marketed and had to be thrown away. That, in fact, will be a problem this season: there will be less seed to sow.

France has also slowed down exports “to assess what stock is left and what qualities, and to see if they can serve their clients well. Here in our cooperative, several crisp factories have already called and in the last 10 days they have not been supplied with potatoes from France and they have had to use Spanish potatoes until the problem is solved,” Guillermo shares.

As the Lonja de León market points out, it has to be remembered that Europe has prohibited practically all the anti-sprouting agents that allowed growers to preserve potatoes in their warehouses in an optimum state for a long period of time, and therefore their conservation is now carried out in refrigerated chambers which are difficult for farmers to access due to their high cost. “In addition to this, it is much more difficult and more expensive to control germination; we estimate that it is up to 300% more expensive than before, and much less efficient. It is also a double problem, because I see it as a good thing that if something is toxic it should be eliminated, but when in the rest of the world it is considered that it is not, you start to doubt, and that makes it more complex for us to keep the product in good condition.

In the last session, all varieties recorded increases. The Leonese Agria potato rose by almost 10% compared to last year, to 350 euros/tonne, while Kebennec, Red Pontiac, Red Scarlett, Hermes and Yona rose by almost 7% to 310 euros/tonne.

“These are very good prices for late potatoes here in León. Last year, in fact, we already charged around 30 euros more per tonne compared to the previous season”, Guillermo recalls, although this price dynamic is not encouraging farmers in León to increase production in the province. “Generational replacement is a big problem in León,” he continues. “Right now we are looking for young producers to continue with the activity, but there are many who prefer other crops. This year there could even be less production due to the smaller quantity of seed potatoes available because we don’t know if there will be enough seed for everyone”.

For the moment, the prices for Spanish potatoes are on a very positive note for farmers in León, “and it is expected that there will be a further rise”.

This situation will be taken advantage of by farmers in León, but Galician potato growers could do even more, he points out. “There are more farmers there who have their own cold stores where they can store their produce waiting for the price to rise so that they can sell it at the best moment”.

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