COVID-19’s negative effect on the potato industry

Many farmers are complaining that they will be left with a surplus of potatoes due to a lack of demand – both local and export markets – because of Covid-19.

Television Malta is informed that there are at least half a million kilos of potatoes that were supposed to be exported to European markets but found export doors closed.

Although Maltese potatoes are in demand and sought after in various markets in Europe, this year farmers will not be able to export all their potatoes apart from the fact that the price of exported potatoes is much lower than usual.

The Coordinator of the Active Farmers Association, Malcolm Borg, said that it has been a very bad year for farmers who will suffer losses due to the huge costs that go into potato cultivation.

“From the farmers who spoke to us we estimate that there are about five hundred thousand kilos of potatoes, or slightly more, still in the ground.”

Maltese farmers have been exporting potatoes for many years and it has always been among the most lucrative products.

” These farmers have ran up thousands of euros in costs; they waited four / five months to grow the product and now on the eve of the day they have to harvest the potatoes to get back their costs, they have found all doors closed. ”

Michael Caruana, a farmer said that this year was a dry year, costs were higher and the outbreak of COVID-19 continued to make it more difficult as prices dropped

The price when compared to the costs I incurred personally, will not be profitable – how much will I have to make up for with other costs.”

He stated that he did not even manage to export all the potatoes to the Netherlands.

” We had contracts with companies where contracts were still honoured, but where prices were dropped. They had their reasons for dropping the price because most people couldn’t buy; you have to understand that most people weren’t even going to work -it was a chain reaction; a domino effect. ”

While last year, a 25 kilo sack of exported potatoes was selling for around 12 euros, this year the price has dropped by half. Even local demand for potatoes is not as large as usual as there is less consumption in both hotels and restaurants.

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