Quality potatoes all year long, preferably of Belgian origin
Lately, there has been some confusion and incomprehension about the fact that many Belgian potato farmers wrestle with surpluses whereas foreign potatoes (from Israel for instance) found their way to supermarket shelves. This requires an explanation.
Belgian if possible, taking the quality of the seasons into account
Colruyt Group's purchase policy has not changed during this corona period. We buy our fruit and vegetables as much as possible in Belgium, depending on availability and quality of the products. End April-early May is usually the end of the season for many home-grown potato varieties for fresh use. This influences the taste and aspect of these potatoes.
For years now, we have been able to supply the expected and demanded quality by buying early potatoes abroad to overcome this 'end-of-season' period. We conclude these agreements with suppliers months in advance. We obtain early potatoes from Israel first, because that is where they are ready to be harvested first. A few weeks later, we switch to early potatoes from Cyprus, Spain and Italy and eventually, we start with the first Belgian potatoes of the new season.
Potato surplus for the industry
To understand the recent discussion, it is important to make a distinction between two kinds of potatoes: potatoes grown and stored to be used fresh and potatoes grown and stored for the industry, mainly to prepare frozen products (such as fries). Farmers have surpluses of the latter this year, because due to the coronacrisis, export abroad diminished and local consumption dropped because restaurants are closed.
The way in which potatoes for the industry are stored and the evolution of the season have an effect on the quality. Customers want potatoes without pressure stains and without internal blue spots. The later in the season, the more this can occur. As the season advances, potatoes will also start to develop sprouts. Not in the stores, but at the customers' home and that results in dissatisfaction. This is the reason why we switch to early potatoes in May.
It is not true that we can buy and sell all surpluses of Belgian farmers. We would receive many complaints from our customers and we also have to comply with the agreements made with our foreign suppliers. Nobody was able to predict the current market situation.
Colruyt Group supports Belgian grower
To support our Belgian potato farmers, we have already bought extra volumes of potatoes for fries in the framework of our potato project (a cooperation agreement between Colruyt Group and 16 Belgian potato growers). Because of the current market situation, we have also extended the sale of Belgian potatoes for fries by 2 to 3 weeks depending on the quality level available.
Moreover, the 'Too Good To Go' organisation organises a campaign (from 25 May to 21 July), in cooperation with VLAM/APAQ and Comeos, to encourage the consumer to eat more Belgian fries and frozen potato products in order to boost sales. This campaign is called SOS PATAT and we are supporting this initiative. In this way, we hope to contribute to the further promotion and sale of this Belgian product.