A visit to Potato Europe, an international agricultural exhibition held in Belgium from September 7 to 8, as always, brought a lot of useful information. And the fears of many participants and visitors (and those who did not dare to become them) turned out to be unreasonable that Belgium would not be able to reveal the development potential of the industry quite interestingly.
Of course, the exhibition was less large-scale than last year in Germany, whose producers control the eastern direction, but no less interesting.
And although this event has the status of a pan-European one, the tendency is well-founded when every host country, using the right of the owner, focuses on demonstrating the achievements of its own producers and their potential partners.
This year was quite difficult for European manufacturers.
Lack of moisture, hot, dry weather at the beginning of the season in some countries led to the massive appearance of alternariosis on potatoes. But the real test was then followed by heavy rainfall, many times exceeding the norm.
Moreover, this problem affected not only one region, but almost all countries - England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France - experienced very big problems due to excess moisture. This affected the quality of the potato and, unfortunately, will not affect the storage in the future in the best way.
Seed potatoes, which are planned to be shipped to Russia this year, are not much cheaper than last year's prices, despite the almost two-fold reduction in prices for marketable potatoes in Europe. So our domestic producers risk getting at least overgrown potatoes.
And if we take into account the literally widespread increase in the abandonment of potato plantings in Europe by bacterioses, then the imposition of these problems on excess soil moisture can lead to serious problems. Do not forget that climatic changes in Russia also favor the spread of bacterioses and a significant increase in their harmfulness.
Unfortunately, our Western colleagues cannot offer anything to solve such a nagging problem as the infection of seed potatoes with silver scab - a serious disease that leads to a decrease in germination and an unambiguous accumulation of pathogens in the soil.
Proposals to ship the seed in October, before the manifestation of this disease in the store, in order to manage to get certificates in Russia before the manifestation of the visible symptoms of the disease in February-March, is, to put it mildly, illogical.
In general, producers will have to pay for the collapse of domestic seed production for a long time.
Returning to the exhibition in Belgium, we note that attending such events is still extremely useful for understanding the general trends in the development of the industry. At the very least, a thoughtful approach should appeal to many of our Russian colleagues who influence the development of the potato-growing complex in Russia.
An integrated approach to the development of the potato industry in Russia should provide for a mandatory increase in processing capacities as a logical continuation of the growth in storage volumes. It is necessary to take into account and stimulate all the key factors necessary for dynamic development in this direction, from the allocation of the necessary quotas for energy, with a reduced price, to attracting investments and staffing.
The growth of processing volumes, along with the solution of seed production problems, will be the main locomotive of the industry's development.
The transfer of sufficiently large volumes of potatoes into a long-term storage product will be able to ease price pressure on the market in certain periods, improve logistics, thereby expanding and optimizing not only the temporal, but also the territorial boundaries of product sales.
However, it must be taken into account that the increase in processing capacities should be thought out and coordinated. Otherwise, a sharp rise in prices is possible due to competition for raw materials and a violation of the stability of the domestic market.
Regular attendance at industry events at various levels will help to look at the potato product complex as a single interconnected mechanism, and eventually to move away from the ongoing rhetoric about food security in the field of more specific decisions. Understanding will come. Probably…
And Belgium said goodbye to us with rain. Beautiful, small and well-fed country.