Switzerland Forced to Import Potatoes for Chips and Crisps

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A poor potato harvest has prompted many growers to consider quitting potato cultivation.

Daniel Peter has been growing potatoes in Rickenbach in canton Zurich for 20 years. It is normal that the harvest varies year on year. But it has not been as bad as this year for a long time.

“I have a 50% failure in the French fries and crisps varieties,” says the vice-president of the Association of Swiss Potato Producers. These varieties in particular have not survived the extreme weather changes from high heat to high rainfall this summer.

Peter was not the only one to have this problem. There are many potato farmers in Switzerland who are thinking of quitting, he says – because this is already the third bad potato harvest in a row. The year 2021 was too wet and 2022 too dry. Many producers must postpone planned investments because they are currently having trouble paying their bills.

Because there is a shortage of about 100,000 tonnes of potatoes throughout Switzerland, the Zweifel crisps factory in Spreitenbach is procuring more potatoes from abroad than in other years. According to the Aargauer-Zeitung paper, Zweifel has to import 15% to 18% of its potato requirements across the border.

Smaller potatoes 

Other buyers are also reacting to the poor potato harvest, says Peter. Because of the drought, many potatoes remained small and did not reach the required minimum size. Now, an agreement has been reached with the chips industry that the potatoes supplied may be smaller than in other years.

To prevent such a poor harvest and so many failures in the future, other varieties have to be developed, says potato farmer Peter: “More robust varieties will be needed that don’t get hit right away if there is not optimal potato weather.”

Research is already being conducted abroad on such improved varieties. For the time being, however, this is still a pipe dream for Switzerland. It takes several years for a new variety to establish itself in the soil.

Source : SWI