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As will have become clear to everyone by now, the 2023 potato crop in the northwest of Europe is suffering from some major quality issues. The problems started in the springtime, when there was a delay of several weeks in planting the seeds, due to cold weather. In spite of a very hot and dry summer, in August and September things seemed to be going reasonably well, but then in October and November, it never stopped raining. Most potatoes were still sitting in the ground at that stage (as a result of the springtime delay) and simply could not be harvested. The reason for this is that, when fields are soaking wet, they are inaccessible for heavy harvesting machinery.
About 15-20% of the entire potato crop has been lost as a result of the bad weather conditions. These potatoes could not be harvested and had to be left rotting in the ground. Most potatoes that could be harvested, were already seriously compromised and went into storage while still very wet. This accellerates further deterioration and we are expecting the next 5-6 months to become increasingly difficult. Both the availability and the quality of stored potatoes are going to decrease quickly, possibly even exponentially. We shall have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, this means that prices are going to rise even further, although the product quality will decline. We understand this will be a very difficult situation for traders and end-users (consumers) of our products, but amends must be made by all parties involved. The only alternative would be to stop all deliveries and to stop consuming french fries altogether, which of course is never a real option. Especially since all of our competitors in the same region of manufacturing are dealing with the exact same quality problems and a chronic shortage of raw material that is still eligible to be processed.
In concrete terms, we will have to be economical with the available raw material and allow for more black spots and other blemishes than usual. For instance, we see a lot of potatoes that have suffered from wet skin resulting in rot, potatoes that are more susceptible to bruising, potatoes with a lower dry matter content and potatoes suffering from hypothermia. All of this can cause more black spots or other color defects (such as grey or brown haze), more peel remains and in some cases waxy string ends or a darker frying color.
In order to be clear about our new maximum tolerances for black spots and other blemishes, we have amended our product specification sheets; you may find these attached to our e-mail, or request them from our QA department. Duly note that the numbers mentioned in our specs do not represent average values, but are merely an indication of our maximum tolerances, or the “worst case scenario”. The quality of our products is always subject to natural variations, which may be amplified by the current situation. It is important to realise that, while the quality of some batches of product may be on the lower border of our specs, others may be significantly better, or even downright beautiful!!
We deeply regret having to ask for your understanding in this matter, but you may rest assured that we shall continue to do everything in our power to supply you with the best possible product. With a new spring already in sight, we can only hope that the 2024 growing season for potatoes is going to be better and your confidence in our business and our products is not lost.