Business Potato growers overwhelmed by stocks

Potato growers overwhelmed by stocks

Coronavirus weighs on northern potato producers – 20 minutes

  • Potato producers are unable to sell their stocks.
  • In Comines, Emmanuel Leclerc remains with 150 tonnes of potatoes on his arms.
  • With his wife, he launched a drive to sell his goods to individuals.

Monday, potatoes, Tuesday, potatoes … The coronavirus crisis continues to claim collateral victims. The
the closure of restaurants, decided in mid-March to try to limit the spread of the epidemic, had the effect of impacting not only the merchants themselves, but also the players at the start of the chain, such as
Farmers. Due to a lack of customers, the potato producers are left with mountains of stocks which they do not know what to do with. Report from Emmanuel Leclerc, farmer in Comines, in the North.

At 45, Emmanuel Leclerc considers himself a “small producer”. Its farm, located in Comines, has 45 hectares of land with an average yield of 900 tonnes of potatoes each year. He usually runs the shop with two part-time employees. Except that with the coronavirus health crisis, he found himself alone. “The confinement, we did not feel it since it was necessary to continue working. There was even more work than usual, luckily the children were there, “says Emmanuel.

“What has not been sold before mid-July can no longer be sold”

The farmer’s production is sold for a large part thanks to upstream contracts with French fries manufacturers. The rest, about a third, are normally sold over the counter to other factories. But when he opens the doors to his huge refrigerated hangar, we quickly realize that a third is still a lot. “Nothing has been sold since the start of containment, it represents about 150 tonnes,” said Emmanuel. And despite the freshness that reigns in the storage place, the farmer fears the arrival of hot weather: “We made donations to associations, but what will not have been sold before mid-July can no longer being. We will have to feed the animals, “he resigned.

In early May, Delphine, Emmanuel’s wife, had an idea. “I saw my husband getting demoralized in front of this bunch of potatoes, so I thought about going on a drive to sell to individuals,” she recalls. With the help of a friend and their 17-year-old daughter Constance, the couple created a Facebook page to attract the client. “We made 100,000 views in two days and many people came to buy potatoes out of solidarity,” rejoices Delphine. “With the drive, we sold between 12 and 15 tonnes of potatoes. It will limit the breakage, ”adds Emmanuel.

“Today, we are thinking of keeping this drive system”

The success of their initiative, which has since been adopted by many other producers, has given food for thought to the Leclerc family. “We might not have done this without the coronavirus. Today, we are thinking of keeping this drive system and perhaps even diversifying with seasonal vegetables. To no longer depend solely on manufacturers and because people are also fed up with big box stores, “said the farmer.

Even when the health crisis has passed, Emmanuel will not be at the end of his pain. Indeed, the harvest for next October has already been planted and, depending on the weather, the producer will still have 900 tonnes of potatoes to sell. “The factories have their fridges full, suddenly we may find ourselves in the same situation next season,” he imagines. Family meals, in which the potato is carved out every day, are not about to vary.

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