Ukraine, which is officially considered to be one of the three leaders in the production of potatoes, at the same time, due to the internal shortage of this product, is one of the largest importers of potatoes.
Andrey Yarmak, economist at the investment department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), spoke about this in his column on zn.ua.
“During just one season 2019/20 (from July 2019 to June 2020 inclusive), almost half a million tons of fresh potatoes were imported for consumption, excluding seed! This makes Ukraine one of the world's largest importers of potatoes for the fresh market, because the rest of the leading importers (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany) import potatoes mainly for processing or for re-export. But officially it is considered that Ukraine is one of the three largest potato producers in the world, behind China and India, ”Yarmak said.
“There is only one country in Europe where dirty potatoes with soil are sold in supermarkets. Yes, this is Ukraine. And also - the volume of sales of potatoes in supermarkets in Ukraine is less than the volume of sales of oranges. These facts are important for understanding why the "granary of Europe" in 2020 was unable to provide itself with "second bread", and even bought it not somewhere, but from Russia, "the expert continued.
The FAO representative emphasized that the vast majority of Ukrainian farms that grow potatoes, even professional ones, do not have equipment for bringing potatoes to marketable appearance: for cleaning, washing, sorting, packaging lines, etc.
“Our grower would rather plant extra 100 hectares of potatoes than invest in its refinement. After all, if you start finishing and sorting potatoes, it turns out that it looks even worse. Consequently, you need to invest in more expensive equipment, change varieties, and install irrigation. That is, it is very inconvenient and expensive to change the entire production system, ”the author emphasized.
The qualifications of managers of supermarkets in Ukraine who are responsible for fruit and vegetable departments, according to Yarmak, are also not always at the level of requirements.
“The cheap potato strategy didn't work. After all, neither the representatives of the supermarket chain nor the manufacturers in Ukraine could understand the fundamental difference between raw materials and finished products. Potatoes become a finished product only when they are delivered to the supermarket shelf in the form in which the consumer wants to buy it. And 99% of what was sold in supermarkets in Ukraine is raw materials, and it should not be there, ”the expert wrote.
He also noted that potatoes grown in the EU for processing purposes usually have significantly higher quality parameters than potatoes grown in Ukraine for fresh consumption.