Israel’s potato harvest is set to start a few weeks sooner following special requests from Europe after heavy winter rains impacted crops.
“We see an earlier than usual demand for potatoes from Israel in Europe. The normal main shipments usually start from weeks 17 to 18 from us into Europe, but will likely start earlier from around weeks 14-15,” says Eitan Botzer, Managing Director of Atzmona Potato Production, an Israeli exporter and producer of organic and conventional potatoes and carrots.
“The emphasis is mainly on organic potatoes with our customers and importers in Europe asking us to supply earlier due to the uncertain quality of potato crops in those countries caused by the heavy rains.”
“Israeli producers will be able to adjust their growing season and supply our European customers earlier despite some of our blocks receiving frost damage during January and the early part of February. The damage was limited with producers making the necessary adjustments to be able to supply sooner,” says Botzer from Mivtachim, Israel.
Atzmona is co-owned by one Kibbutzim and a commercial partner with their own farms. They own two packhouses, one for carrots and another for potatoes. They also pack for farmers in the region and handle their exports.
“We are not expecting to double our volumes this year. We just want to see a normal gradual increase each year. Our aim is to supply our current customers while we are looking forward to see another 2 to 3 good customers that we can supply. Usually, we are busy packing from mid-February but it is still quiet for now with smaller quantities being packed. I foresee us supplying the same quantity but over a shorter period, despite the earlier requests from Europe,” explained Botzer.
He mentioned that producers in Israel face three challenges that sound very similar to the challenges experienced by producers around the world. “The exchange rate is not in our favour. The Shekel strengthened against the Euro and Pound as the general Israeli economy strengthened. The costs of potato seeds per ton have increased drastically as we have seen from August when we started piling up seeds. We order from the Netherlands and buy some from Germany, France and Scotland. The price increases per ton are between €220-230, and £200 pounds from Scotland. If you produce 15 hectares it is 20 pounds more expensive per ton.”
“Lastly, land transport increased due to the oil and dollar rates which are rising up to 7-8%. Due to all the input cost we foresee that prices of our products have to be adjusted. These increases must make up for the rising input costs. We must settle on something decent for everyone. When everything is rising, it is frustrating, but somehow conceivable, to see the other party’s point of view and reach an understanding,” says Botzer.