The great drought also affects the potatoes. Up to 40 percent of the harvest could be lost – and that has an expensive impact on french fries.

Large potatoes are particularly important for french fries.

NAfter the persistent drought, French fries could become more expensive because of the poor potato harvest: The potato processing industry warns of quality problems and impending bottlenecks. With the drought, the situation “dramatically” worsened, according to a statement by the Federal Association of the Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Processing Industry (BOGK). BOGK managing director Horst-Peter Karos is already expecting crop failures of up to 40 percent for potatoes. “If the weather doesn’t change, the harvest is bad,” said Karos.

Due to the drought, the potato plants came under increasing stress and stopped growing, so that the tubers remained small. Even irrigation, if at all possible, is of little use. Above all, oversized tubers, such as those required for the production of French fries, are already barely or nonexistent on numerous soils.

“It is getting more critical from day to day”, said the analyst of the agricultural market information service AMI, Christoph Hambloch. “The early varieties of potato got off lightly, everything that follows suffers extremely from the heat.” Despite a good harvest in 2017, potato prices are already well above the previous year’s level. On the commodity futures exchange, too, the potato prices have reached a high that has not been reached in years.

The new potato can be called that if it is harvested by August 10th.
The new potato can be called that if it is harvested by August 10th.: Image: dpa

“The amount of tubers is set. Now it’s all about size, ”explains Stephan Hufer, a farmer from the Lower Rhine Alps (Wesel district). Alongside Lower Saxony and Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the largest German growing areas for potatoes. The sale of the harvest, which has been badly affected by heat and drought, is causing concern. “It is conceivable that some of the smaller calibres will no longer be marketable,” said Hufer. The farmers now hoped to make up at least part of the impending losses through price increases.

For the industry, Karos assumes that in the future smaller potatoes could also be used for the production of then shorter French fries. “If the bigger sorts aren’t there, you have to go back to smaller batches,” he said. Since neighboring European countries are also affected by the drought, the problem cannot be solved by imports. Imports from non-EU countries are not only expensive, but also only possible to a very limited extent to protect against potato diseases.