750,000 Tons of Potatoes Face Destruction
Belgian potato farmers are faced with a surplus of some 750,000 tons of crop that risks being destroyed because of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to the sector organization Belgapom.
With the closure of foodservice outlets, demand has slumped, and the near future promises no relief for the potato farmers.
According to The Brussels Times, Belgapom is now calling on the population to make up for the shortfall, by eating fries twice a week at home, instead of once. Home is the most important place for consumption of potatoes in general, according to market research carried out for the Flemish agricultural marketing agency VLAM. The exception being for frites – the traditional Belgian fries – which are mainly consumed in restaurants or bought to take away from snack bars.
Belgapom has announced it will supply 25 tons of potatoes every week to food banks, at least until the end of May. As potato farmers face surplus stocks, so food banks are facing shortages and growing demand for their services.
“This way, part of the potato stock will still be used and we can avoid seeing excellent food, for which our farmers have worked so hard, being lost,” said Flemish agriculture minister Hilde Crevits.
The potato sector, both production and processing into products such as frozen fries, is largely based in Flanders, and West Flanders province in particular.
“Families in poverty will be supplied with fresh, local potatoes every week. A positive action in difficult times,” said Crevits.
According to Romain Cools, secretary-general of Belgapom, the potato sector is doing its best to find a destination for the surplus of potatoes.
“Our entire potato chain is happy that thanks to this action, some potatoes are still finding their way to the 460 distribution points of Belgian food banks. This way, we also contribute to providing the most vulnerable in our society with tasty and healthy potatoes.”