Exclusive: Agristo Starts Production on the Second Processing Line at Plant in Wielsbeke
Belgian potato processor Agristo started production on the second line in its newest facility in Wielsbeke, Belgium, said Steven De Cuyper, Director Agro at Agristo.
The processor has recently increased its production capacity by adding this second line to the French fries plant in Wielsbeke. The facility construction – an investment of EUR200m – was started in October 2016.
A higher demand for potatoes led Agristo to raise the prices offered to the farmers for the potato crops this year. De Cuyper explained the decision was due to the drought conditions last year, which led to smaller yields.
“Average prices for the last harvest rose by 20%. Mainly based on the 2018 crop, when the yield was small, that led to higher spot prices. Last year, there was a smaller tonnage/ ha, so we had to increase the prices,” De Cuyper said, confirming that currently, there is indeed a potato shortage.
The relationship between Agristo and the farmers is working with is based in long-term cooperation and requires from them to have the possibility to store the crop. “The focus is to try to build up something and to establish a long-term professional relationship,” De Cuyper underlines. The company collaborates with farmers from four countries – Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France and the varieties it uses are Fontane, Challenger and Innovator.
Asked to make a forecast for the next season, De Cuyper said that it is difficult to predict, but he explained that for the moment, weather conditions in this period, built up the water levels in the soil. “I don’t think the dry condition of last year will influence the soil. We do not know how the climate will be in 2019. A dry, a good or a cold spring and a hot and dry summer influence a lot the crop in the end,” he said. On the other hand, De Cuyper explains that especially crops from Belgium need natural rain as the artificial irrigations cannot be implemented. “We need rain because we cannot meet the target with artificial irrigations. The landscape is not suitable for that. We are very dependent on rain in these regions,” he said.
Moreover, the Director Agro with Agristo admitted that there is a limited availability in seed potatoes, which suffered from drought similarly to those for consumption. This will definitely play a big role on the acreage this year, but it is still difficult to calculate right now.
Photo source: alheembouw.be