“The yield is very mediocre this year. For us, the drought left a big mark,“ said farmer Emīls Zeltiņš from Dobele municipality.
"The potatoes needed rain in August, when the harvest was ripening. But here, I think it was only at the beginning of July that it was raining, and now it rained less than a week ago, but it was too late. Everybody wants big potatoes. Like last year, they are very small in size. For the time being, I estimate that there are around 30 tonnes per hectare. Two years ago, when there was really a good harvest, there were 50 tonnes per hectare. But there was something like 30 tonnes per hectare last year, too,” Zeltiņš said.
The farmer said that the purchase price of potatoes had been particularly low two years ago, below 10 cents per kilogram. Last year the price doubled but hasn't risen yet this year. “The wholesale price is around 22 cents per kilogram right now. If those wholesalers can come from Germany or Poland and add transport costs, then we cannot ask more, because last year we proved that they were buying where the potatoes are cheaper,” Zeltiņš said.
At the same time, the costs of potato cultivation and storage have increased. “I have not counted it exactly, but for example, for fertilizers, if planting per hectare cost around €300 previously, I have bought it now for next season, and for a hectare it already costs €1,000. Also, the cost of electricity, because we put them in the basements and they are ventilated all winter. We finish selling in April,” the farmer said.
Aiga Kraukle, head of the union of potato growers and processors, said that potato harvesting is taking place throughout Latvia. She pointed out that last year had been a very poor potato year, but this would be moderate. Yield levels depend on the location of the fields and the amount of rainfall. Potato fields have also been affected by the spread of pests.
“This year the situation is very variable. There are fields where yields are very small and, at the same time, they can be very good for the same owner in another field. We estimate that good yields this year are around 30 tonnes per hectare, which is nothing particularly good, but is already well above average. And there are also fields where there are only 10 tonnes per hectare. But the situation is very different in general across Latvia. It will be better than last year, but nothing outstanding. There was also a challenge with Colorado beetles, because last year there were no real remedies to limit them, and they were breeding amiably,” Kraukle said.
Data from the Rural Support Service show that this year around 7500 hectares of potato area have been registered in Latvia, which is nearly 200 hectares more than last year. In most cases, farmers are still cultivating food potatoes, and potato varieties for seed, starch, or chips are also cultivated in smaller areas.