Sustainability High on the Agenda for New Belgian Branch Organization
Following the recent announcement that a new branch organization – Belpotato.be has been created in Belgium, Potato Business reached out to Belgapom’s secretary general Romain Cools to find out more about the new body and its efforts. Belgapom is a member of Belpotato.be.
What are the main differences between what Belgapom does and what Belpotato.be sets out to do?
Belgapom is the Belgian federation of the potato trade and processing industry. Other links of the Belgian potato value chain (farmers, suppliers of goods & services) are organized in other associations.
As a federal branch organization, including the regional (Walloon) branch organization FIWAP, Belpotato.be is aiming to act as one voice for the Belgian potato value chain towards the authorities, research institutions, consumers and citizens. The Belgian potato sector has evolved to one of the main drivers of the Belgian agriculture and food industry and is facing a number of new challenges for example reduction of available plant protection products, increasing sustainability, as well as biodiversity and climate change.
A branch organization according to European law, allows this value chain platform to be created including the possibility to involve all operators, also those which are not a member of the individual industry associations, including the financing of the activities of the branch organization.
One of the Belpotato.be’s stated priorities is to “further strengthen sustainability through innovation.” Can you offer a few examples of how the branch organization plans to do that?
The innovative “WatchITgrow project“ (including crop advise and follow up via remote sensing (satellite data) is a perfect example of a tool to register and improve the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the potato crop, taking into account new knowledge and techniques. More and more research results are being incorporated in this project, which will be also managed by Belpotato.be.
Can you please current characterize the climate around seed potatoes in Belgium and the reasons why Belpotato.be wants to diminish reliance on seed potato imports?
The quality of seed potatoes is a main issue for farmers and traders/processors (as they are often within the contracts suppliers of the seed potatoes). The past years a number of discussions with the (mainly) Dutch seed potato sector have been raised (germination of plants, presence of diseases), which need a follow up. To avoid that, producers are aiming to work with ‘farm saved seed’, which is not externally controlled but completely legal (if property rights are payed for protected varieties), the availability and assurance of quality seed is crucial. Some believe that producing certified seed in Belgium could be part of the solution (currently the large part of the used seed is important). But also further consultation and involvement of the Belgian buyers in Dutch projects could be a step forward.
You can read the entire interview in the upcoming issue of our print magazine Potato Processing International (March/April 2020)!