Belgian potato processing sector rounds off a record year for 2016 and continues to invest in the future.
2016 was an absolute record year for the Belgian potato procession sector, according to the conclusions of Belgapom, the association for the Belgian potato trade and processing industry.
The fact that this growth sector within the Belgian food industry with 4.4 million tonnes (+ 11% compared to 3.97 million tonnes in 2015) once again processed a record volume of potatoes is not new, but the increase from one calendar year to the next has never been so great.
The sharpest rise was seen in the production of frozen fries (1.68 million tonnes, + 14.3% compared to 2015), but the production of fresh fries (234,700 tonnes, + 3.5 %) and other products (crisps, mashed products, flakes, etc. 468,513 tonnes, + 1.7%) also rose.
The rise in frozen fries is no surprise, after all the Belgian potato processing industry exports 80% of its total production, of which an increasingly large share goes to third countries all over the world.
What is more, with a turnover of € 1.55 billion, in 2016 the sector employed 4,115 which is a remarkable increase compared to the 3,537 employees in 2015.
The fact that the potato sector has faith in the future is illustrated by the highest investment figure since the start of the annual observations in 1995: in 2016 no less than € 310 million (+ 85% compared to the previous record year 2015) were invested in quantitative and high-quality innovations within the sector, of which the greater part are family companies.
In 2014, the Belgian potato sector started a ‘sustainable growth’ project, whereby in consultation with the entire chain and in collaboration with a number of Belgian research institutes, several innovations were started with an eye to the sustainable production of potatoes and potato products. Recently, a tool was launched in the form of ‘watchITgrow’ that is to assist producers and buyers to increase potato production sustainably through cooperation.
Together with the FPS Public Health and the FASFC, various projects to prevent organisms harmful for potato growing and where necessary control them, were committed to.
In the meantime, intensive work continues on other projects such as Bintje Plus and Reskia, that aim to reduce the use of crop protection products.
The recent update of the BAT study (best available techniques in the area of environmental measures for the AGF sector in Flanders) and the current revision of the BREF study (European BAT) show that our Belgian companies are global leaders in this respect too.
However, there are threats for this growth sector too.
‘Small country, great food’ is the slogan of the Food.be campaign, that aims to simulate the export of Belgian food products.
Protectionist reflexes all over the world threaten to throw a spanner in the works, however. Thus, the Belgian (and European) potato chain was confronted with unwarranted anti-dumping measures taken by the South African and Brazilian governments. The European Commission – competent in this matter – had shown that the procedure was full of loopholes. However, apparently, the Commission does not have sufficient mandate and resources to intervene adequately in these WTO proceedings.
It therefore seems a priority for the Belgian (and European) potato chain to be taken seriously as a sector by the authorised departments of the European Commission in order to see its interests more strongly represented.
After all, it is a fact that potato production is increasingly evolving from a ‘secondary crop’ to a ‘main crop’ for a large part of the European farmers.
Recent figures relating to the suppliers for the agricultural and horticultural sectors show that companies active in the potato chain have evolved into the clear leaders in this sector. That is why Belgapom continues to commit to further sustainable growth in the interest of the entire potato chain, whereby we also need to look squarely at the global opportunities to promote potato growing in new growth countries.
Promotion for ‘Belgian fries’ in Southeast Asia
A few years ago, Belgapom launched the character James Bint (with a license to fry) as the ambassador of “Belgian fries”. He will propagate the Belgian culture of fries, of which the ‘chip shop culture’ – that was recognised as cultural heritage by the Dutch and French-speaking communities – all over the world.
Thus, VLAM will soon start a promotion campaign in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to put ‘Belgian fries’ on the map there too. These countries are above all familiar with the North American ‘French Fries’ from fast food chains. The aim of this campaign is to let the ever-growing middle class experience “original Belgian fries from the heart of Europe”. The campaign, with a budget of 3 milion euros spread over three years, is supported by the European Commission and APAQ-W, and will collaborate with 5 Belgian manufacturers of potato products.
WatchITgrow : a revolutionary jump forward for the Belgian potato chain!
WatchITgrow is a new geo-information platform developped for the potato sector with the purpose to better estimate and increase the potato yield in a sustainable way. With this webtool the belgian potato growers and the potato traders and processors can quickly and in a user friendly way access data and information on the growth of different potato varieties.
WatchITgrow is the result of 3 years scientific research under the project name iPot. The iPot project started in 2014 under the auspices of the STEREO-III research programm of the Federal Public Planning Service Science Policy (BELSPO). WatchITgrow now makes the results of this scientific research available for the entire Belgian potato sector.
The power of Remote Sensing for the agricultural sector
WatchITgrow is the first platform to combine several types of data. Through the combination of satellite and drone images, weather and soil data and yield prediction models, the potato sector can consult, via watchITgrow, in a quick and efficient way the correct information on one of multiple potato fields. With these additional insights one can:
* Access more and more accurate information on the state of the crop;
* Beter monitor the potato crop in function of growth, health status and development;
* Map spacial variability within the field;
* Guarantee and increase the yield;
* Estimate the harvest date and yields during the season;
* Reduce production and quality losses.
Not only external data but also data from the potato industry (such as results from yield and quality determination) can be centralised in this geo-information platform. This allows the users to check in an easy way for example which part of the production area gives the best yields or where a certain potato variety performs better or worse and what the possible causes may be.
WatchITgrow, the potato sector and research world, side by side
After 3 years of scientific research by scientists from Flanders and Wallonia (VITO, CRA-W and ULG) together with the potato traders and processors (Belgapom), the online geo-information platform watchITgrow is born. The platform is developped for the potato sector with intensive input from the sector.
The data and knowledge of the potato sector enabled the researchers to finetine and gradually improve the monitorsystem. Thanks to the additional field data the application will keep improving and become more accurate season after season.
This innovative instrument can form the basis of futher applications within the field of precision agriculture, f.i. sickness prevention and fertilising, but also the possibility to link the field registration system of Vegaplan.
Crucial is the fact that the potato grower – potentially in agreement with his customers – remains himself the owner of his data.
More info on www.watchitgrow.be
The FVPhouse offices are closed between Christmas and New Year
The FVPhouse offices, that host the Belgapom secretariat, will be closed between Christmas and New Year. The secretariat will be again at your disposal as from 3 January 2017 onwards.
We wis you, your family and collaborators a merry Christmas and a sparkling start of 2017.
Move of the European RUCIP secretariat to Brussels and new RUCIP 2017 on 1/1/2017
As from January 1, 2017 the RUCIP European Committee secretariat will be effectively transferred from Paris to Brussels. From the same date a new set of Rules and Practices of the Inter-European Trade in Potatoes (RUCIP) will also start to apply.
The RUCIP European Committee has validated the new version, commonly known as “RUCIP 2017”. For all disputes on contracts signed after the 1st of January only the RUCIP 2017 version will apply.
The first European rules were established as early as 1956 through the efforts of the European Union for the Wholesale Trade in Potatoes, in defining professional practices and setting up a simple and efficient procedure for expert assessments and arbitrations.
RUCIP has been amended several times since then, in 1972, 1986, 1993, 2000, and 2006. A profound revision was made and came into force on 1 March 2012.
The modifications contained in the new RUCIP 2017 version focus strictly on the transfer of the European secretariat to Brussels and on the possibility to create European lists of Experts and Arbitrators for the countries that do not have a National RUCIP secretariat. Both the transfer of the secretariat and the new rules will become effective on 1 January 2017.
The new RUCIP 2017 will be available for free in English, French and German on the newly created website of RUCIP (www.rucip.eu) as well as following the link to this website from the Europatat own site (www.europatat.eu).
The French and Dutch version of the RUCIP 2017 rules will become available on the Belgapom website as soon as they are available.
Shoulder to shoulder with the potato producers of Coopagros in Peru
After a successful collaboration with TRIAS and several other partners to set up a professional potato cooperative in the Andes of Ecuador, a similar project has been launched with the "Chuño Coalicion" to help the potato cooperative Coopagros in Peru.
Due to the climate change these producers are having trouble to process their "chuños", freeze dried potatoes, based on a century long tradition.
Together with the Belgian NGO TRIAS, the VTI and VLTI school Sint-Rembert and the Rotary of Torhout and ILVO (the Flemish agricultural research centre), Belgapom is helping these potato producers in the Peruvian Andes to construct a freeze house to allow the production and marketing of their chuños.
The students of VTI and VLTI Torhout will also present their project at the international potato trade fair Interpom Primeurs (27-29 November 2016) in Kortrijk XPO.
More information is available in the Belgapom brochure hidden behind the banner on the Belgapom website.
Starting from 2016 – 2017 : in addition to Bintje now also a weekly Belgapom quotation for the Challenger and Fontane varieties.
Belgapom, the association of the Belgian potato trade and processing industry, has through its price committee since 2000 every week quoted the Belgian free market price for potatoes of the Bintje variety for storage potatoes and for various varieties of early potatoes. In addition, the market sentiment was indicated. In the meantime, the Belgapom quotation has developed worldwide into an important indicator of the evolution of the free potato market destined for the frozen fries sector in Belgium.
The reason why Belgapom until now had limited itself to the Bintje variety is obvious: during the past few decades, this variety represented more than half of Belgium’s potato production and it was traded on a large scale on the free market destined for the Belgian frozen fries sector, which made a weekly quotation possible. This was not the case for a number of other varieties, that were largely produced to contract and were only sporadically sold on the free market.
In the meantime, the Belgian potato processing industry – and in particular the frozen fries sector – has developed into a leading producer and global exporter of processed potatoes. The spectacular growth over the past 25 years was also accompanied by important shifts in potato production. Thus the share of contracted potatoes increased and the Bintje had to increasingly share its monopoly position on the free market with other varieties. For a few years already, the Belgapom price committee has also included Challenger and Fontane as “observations” in its weekly quotation. It has now become clear that the share of these two varieties on the free market has become so large that a guaranteed weekly quotation is also possible.
Starting from the 2016 – 2017 season, the Belgapom quotation will be made up of three parts, each supplemented by their own market sentiment: Bintje, Challenger and Fontane.
The definition of the Belgapom quotation is being adapted as follows:
"The Belgapom price is the most-used price observed on the previous working day for Bintje, Challenger and Fontane for processing into frozen potato products, field crop 35 mm+, suitable for fries, ex producer, loose on the truck, for immediate delivery/collection."
In addition, a graph will be added to the quotation for each of these three varieties, that just like for Bintje also refers to the spread of the contract prices for each of the three varieties.
As in the past, the quotation will be published on Friday mornings and will be available on the Belgapom website as of 09:00 a.m.
In this way, Belgapom wants to unambiguously and on the basis of a representative number of transactions guarantee the situation on the Belgian free potato market destined for the frozen fries sector and offer a response to the need for complete and correct information for all the operators involved.
VEGAPLAN scores ‘silver’ at SAI
Vegaplan has scored ‘silver’ in the benchmark with SAI for arable crops, whereof sugar beet, potatoes, chicory, grains and vegetables for the industry.
SAI stands for Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and was set up in 2002 by Nestlé, Unilever and Danone. SAI counts today 80 members of the food and drink industry and developed the Farm Sustainability Assessment tool (FSA 2.0), which is an instrument to assess the sustainable development of a farm. This FSA tool is a wide set of 112 complex questions about environmental, social and economic aspects of a farm. The benchmark is based on this tool.
Vegaplan covers 100% of the essential, 94% of the basic and 77% of the advanced requirements. This excellent result has been possible thanks to the integration of all IPM measures and sustainability requirements in Vegaplan in 2014. For some FSA requirements that are deliberately not covered by the Vegaplan Standard because they are inspected by the authorities or via other structures, the Belgian legislation has been taken into account in the benchmark. Examples are labor conditions like a living wage for workers, health insurance, prohibition of child work and forced labor.
What is the benefit of this benchmark for the farmer?
We avoid extra inspections based on the FSA-tool in Belgium. Through this benchmark we can show to the international food industry and distribution – who do not necessarily know details of the Vegaplan Standard – that our standard and thus the certified farmer comply with their expectations regarding sustainability.
This exercise brings Vegaplan on an international level and shows the efforts made towards sustainable development. And the buyers of agricultural produce are able to confirm to their clients that their choice for Vegaplan certified crops is the right choice!
Source : Vegaplan
INTERPOM | PRIMEURS 2016 : The biggest edition ever and …. the biggest indoor potato trade fair in the world
The 18th edition of INTERPOM | PRIMEURS will be held from Monday 27 to Tuesday 29 November 2016 at Kortrijk Xpo (Belgium). INTERPOM | PRIMEURS is the most specialised indoor trade fair for the potato, vegetable and fruit sector in Europe where the whole chain is represented: from growing, to processing and marketing. The trade fair is set to continue growing and improving its global reach and the 2016 edition will be the biggest edition ever. INTERPOM | PRIMEURS is also the biggest indoor trade fair in the world for the potato sector, the professional platform par excellence where you can
check all the latest market developments and innovations. The next edition will take up the whole of the Kortrijk Xpo complex – including additional space for stands in the Rambla. And the theme of this year’s promising event is ‘Growing through precision technology’.
Additional space in the Rambla after sell-out of all the allocated stand area in the different halls.
The previous editions of INTERPOM | PRIMEURS all reported year-on-year growth. Last year’s edition boasted 278 exhibitors from 16 countries (+ 7.7%) and exceeded all expectations with 19,529 visitors (+ 10.5%) from 41 countries around the world. This positive trend looks set to continue for this edition. Five months before the opening, the trade fair already has as many exhibitors as in 2014. In order to meet the continuing number of applications, the organisers decided to create extra space for stands in the Rambla, the transit zone between the different halls. So, it looks as though the total surface area of reserved stands will increase by no less than 1,000 m² compared to 2014! INTERPOM | PRIMEURS clearly meets expectations: in the visitor surveys from the last edition 97% of visitors stated that they would also come to the 2016 edition. The trade fair scored an impressive 8.4 out of 10.
‘Growing through precision technology’ – the theme for INTERPOM | PRIMEURS 2016
The previous edition of the trade fair was based on the theme ‘Together for sustainable growth’. The organisers have continued in the same vein but placing the accent this year on Precision Agriculture. With the slogan ‘Growing through precision technology’ the emphasis is clearly placed on sustainable growth thanks to technological progress throughout the whole chain. Producers that are able to run their operations more efficiently thanks to the smart application of modern technology are able to guarantee practical sustainable crops. GPS driven tractors for example, digital soil or pedometric mapping, sensors in the ground and between crops, drones and satellites for observing the situation from the air or from space, mechanical applications, etc.
And in the trading and processing sector the principle of ‘measuring means knowledge’ guarantees greater efficiency, less waste with higher yields as a consequence.
Exhibitors showcasing this new precision technology will be given extra exposure on the floor of the INTERPOM PRIMEURS trade show.
The IPot project will also be presented. IPot is an innovative platform for the sustainable increase in Belgian potato production. As part of this project, researchers from Flanders and Wallonia (VITO, CRA-W and ULg), in cooperation with the potato trading and processing (via Belgapom) sector, are setting up a web-based geo-information platform that uses satellite images. All the data available relating to potato growing will be collected on this platform. Use of this objective geo-data should, over time, enable the sector to increase sustainable potato production.
Apart from the specific applications that visitors can discover on the stands, walk-in seminars will also be held based on the theme of the fair. The programme will include short 20-minute interactive sessions on the floor of the trade fair itself. The objective of this initiative is to enable growers to discover the advantages of ‘Growing through precision technology’ for themselves.
New: online visitor registration and tickets
As is already the case with a wide range of other trade fairs, visitors to INTERPOM | PRIMEURS will now have to register online via www.interpom-primeurs.be in order to purchase their entrance tickets. Anyone with a free invitation or a reduced price invitation will also have to register online using a code provided on their invitation. Only after registration (and payment where applicable) will visitors receive an e-ticket with a barcode. This document with the barcode is the only admission document allowed and will be scanned at the entrance of the fair. Online tickets will be available from August.
Presentation of the Inno Potato Award at INTERPOM | PRIMEURS
The fourth edition of the Inno Potato Award rewards potato growers with the best innovative projects. Flemish and Walloon potato growers, selected by a professional jury, present their innovative projects to colleagues in the sector. The names of the winners and their projects will be announced at the end of October on www.innopotato.be. 50% of the votes are allocated by the professional jury and the other 50% are decided on by the visitors to INTERPOM | PRIMEURS during the first two days of the fair. The presentation of the prizes will take place on Tuesday 28 November at 13h00 in the presence of the regional ministers of agriculture in Hall 6 of Kortrijk Xpo.
Dynamic platform for exchanges
INTERPOM | PRIMEURS that is held at Kortrijk (Xpo), is part of a dynamic and growing potato, vegetable and fruit market. It is without a shadow of doubt the place par excellence to make new contacts, to strengthen existing bonds with colleagues and suppliers from abroad and at home, to exchange thoughts and to share information in a sector that has a promising future. A date that deserves a place in your diary in ink.
INTERPOM | PRIMEURS is an initiative of Belgapom, the official trade association for the Belgian potato trade, growers and processors. The practical organisation is in the capable hands of Kortrijk Xpo.
Belgian fries conquer the world ! Remarkable growth continues for Belgian potato-processing sector in 2015
The remarkable growth of the Belgian potato-processing sector in the past few decades has continued in 2015.
In 2015 just under 4 million tonnes of potatoes were processed into fresh or frozen fries, mashed potato products, crisps, precooked potatoes, flakes and granulate. With 3,970,595 tonnes of processed potatoes, the sector experienced 4.4% growth compared to 2014.
What is remarkable in the annual overview of Belgapom, the Belgian association for the potato trade and processing sectors, is the continued rise in investments: € 167,207,415 (+ 44.7%) was a record sum invested. With the intended expansion of the sector on the horizon in the next few years, there is little chance of this trend reversing soon.
The growth is above all apparent in the production of frozen (+5.3%) and fresh fries (+2%), but the volume of other products (such as potato croquettes, crisps, flakes and others) once again increased (+1.3%).
After years of growth in the number of jobs, 2015 seems to have brought stagnation, thus confirming the trend of further far-reaching automation.
This growth of the Belgian potato-processing industry reflects the rising global demand for processed potatoes. The potato is increasingly considered a staple food.
The fact that this source of carbohydrates, vitamin C and potassium can be grown with less land and water than cereals and rice also makes the potato popular in countries where this was not previously the case.
Potato production in developing countries is increasing sharply, as is the demand for user-friendly potato products. Thus at the beginning of 2015, the Chinese government announced that the potato will more and more replace rice and noodles in meals and this trend is also continuing in India.
The Belgian potato chain has a rich tradition, from growing potatoes to the chip shop culture.
Belgium lies in the middle of the European production area and it can count on skilled potato growers who produce high-quality potatoes with an eye to being processed into fries, crisps or other products.
The Belgian potato chain is furthermore made up of numerous family businesses that are active in trade, supply and processing, a dynamism that from 27 to 29 November 2016 will once again be exhibited during Interpom Primeurs, the international potato trade fair, at Kortrijk XPO.
A picture of this traditional yet young sector in the Belgian agro-food chain was immortalised by Belgapom in the book “The potato in Belgium, land of fries” that was published last year.
Together for sustainable growth
The growth of the Belgian potato chain ensures that not just the processing industry, but also the producers and the companies that provide goods and services can further develop as a cluster.
The project ‘Together for sustainable growth’ launched by Belgapom is central to this. The project tries to steer the entire potato chain towards further, but above all sustainable growth.
Belgapom has to this end – together with the other partners in the chain and the Belgian research and test centres –committed to a few interesting projects such as the Reskia project (low-residue germination inhibition), Bintje Plus (a multiple phythophthora-resistant Bintje) and Ipot (a web application that can closely follow and adjust the growth of potatoes via satellite).
James Bint, with a license to fry
Belgapom and its companies strive to further develop the image of ‘real Belgian fries’ all over the world. In no other country in the world is the consumption of fries as deeply ingrained in the culture as in Belgium. Even German Chancellor Merkel recently escaped from a European summit to grab a portion of fries in a Brussels chip shop.
James Bint, a cartoon character with a ‘license to fry’ will in the coming years remain the global ambassador for Belgian fries. In 2016 a campaign is planned to get to know the figure of James Bint even better together with the Belgian chip shops. What’s more, the successful campaign with the chip shop at the Belgian pavilion during the World Fair in Milan will be continued with special offers all over the world. James Bint will be present during the royal economic mission to Indonesia that is leaving next week.
As food.be puts it: Belgium, small country, great food … starting with chocolate, beer and … fries!
The book 'The potato in Belgium, land of fries' is now for sale!
Belgapom, the Belgian potato trade and processig industry, and the editor Canalazzo, have jointly edited the wonderful book 'The potato in Belgium, land of fries'.
This book gives an overview of the history of the potato in Belgium, from the Inca period in Peru over the Belgian 'frites shop' culture and the Belgian top restaurants and their chefs, till the worldwide export of frozen potato products and the future plans of this dynamic sector. The book offers a view over the complete potato chain.
The Belgian Queen Mathilde has received the first issue of this book during her visit of the World Expo in Milano, where the Belgian fries sector is present in the Belgian pavillon with a very successful fries shop and the new campaign with "James Bint".
The book is one to read and to look at, with wonderful illustrations and numerous testymonies from several angles.
The book is available via Belgapom at the price of € 29,95 + shipping costs, and is available in Dutch, French and English. This book has its place in the library of every potato professional and/or lover.
Belgian fries steal the show at the Belgian World Expo pavilion in Milan!
My name is Bint ... James Bint, and I have a license to fry!
With these words every day thousands of fans of Belgian fries are welcomed to the chip shop of the Belgian pavilion at the World Expo in Milan.
And with around 10,000 visitors every day, the pavilion is far from doing badly, showing all those visitors our country’s wealth as a 'country of delicacies'! "Food.be, small country, great food" is displayed everywhere in the pavilion. And rightly so!
The main crowd puller is the chip shop: the democratic price of €4 will buy a 330 gram portion of "real Belgian fries", with the sauce of your choice. Over 1 tonne of fries are sold by chippies trained by Unafri every day. That’s between 1,500 and 2,000 portions!
Even the Italian media felt it worthy of mention in their newspapers.
It’s a great success for the partners of this project and therefore also the entire potato sector. Proven by the numerous selfies on the website of www.jamesbint.be.