Sunday 29 November 2020

The Dutch have potato mountain now snack bars are closed

Snack bars are closed. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Potato growers are facing huge losses now restaurants and snack bars have closed their doors and compensation plans have not yet materialised, the NRC reports.

The Netherlands is one of the main producers of potatoes for making fries. Now that the majority of restaurants, bars and fastfood outlets worldwide have closed their doors to contain coronavirus, growers are looking at a stock of 1.5 million tons of potatoes, two thirds of which cannot be sold.

‘We’re hoping for financial compensation,’ André Hoogendijk of agricultural trade organisation BO Akkerbouw told the paper.

Talks with agriculture minister Carola Schouten are ongoing but have, as yet, not resulted in a firm commitment to a compensation package, Hoogendijk said.

Schouten’s suggestion that the European Union could help out the potato sector will not have a great chance of success, he said, because the problem is mainly concentrated in the Netherlands. ‘Corona is impacting all sectors. Brussels is not going to regard this as a priority.’

The stagnating market is having a knock on effect on potato processing firms, such as Aviko, which produces some 15 million potato products in a normal week. Deep fried chips are being made until the company runs out of space to store them, Aviko sales manager Dick Zelhorst told the paper. ‘We want to honour our contracts with the growers but we won’t be able to process everything,’ he said.

The question of how to get rid of a billion kilos of potatoes is not easily answered, growers said. Grower Arwin Bos told the paper he is under no illusion that he will be able to get rid of his stock which is worth in the region of €200,000.

‘I used Facebook to sell a load of potatoes meant to have been delivered to restaurants and which had already been washed and so were were perishable. But that only accounted for 1.5% of my stock’.

Only a small amount is going to food banks, probably because they do not make a tasty boiled potato, Hoogendijk said. Other possibilities to process the potatoes include bio fermentation and use in the animal fodder and potato starch industries.

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