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Small country huge as a world supplier of seed potatoes

Where the Netherlands rates high

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

For a small country such as the Netherlands to be the world’s leading supplier of seed potatoes is, pardon the pun, no small potatoes. The Dutch grow a high quality product, thanks to good climate conditions, suitable soil, strict and high quality inspection standards, backed cultivation expertise and university-level research as well as a comprehensive industry and export system. All these factors contribute to a success story which has its roots far back in history.

Within a century of the introduction of the potato in the Netherlands, in the 1600s, it had become one of the country's most important food crops. Today, the Netherlands ranks among the world's top ten potato producers, with a harvest in 2007 of 7.2 million tons, then was one tenth of world leader China.

While potato cultivation is on decline in most of Europe, the Dutch still plant almost 25 percent of their arable land - some 160,000 ha - with aardappel, and have achieved a world record average yield level of about 45 tons per hectare. With their highly mechanized agricultural endeavours, the Dutch grows a list of about 250 approved varieties (obviously far more choice than just the 1950s immigrant favourites Bintje and Eigenheimer).

Only half of the Netherlands' potato crop is grown directly for food - around 20 percent is seed potatoes, and the remaining 30 percent is processed for starch. About 70 percent of the Dutch consumption potato crop is exported as fresh tubers or turned into potato products, such as chips and flour. It therefore is the smallest industry component, the certified seed potato, that has the Netherlands as the world's major supplier with exports of some 700,000 tons a year.

To obtain the entire 3-page illustrated article on the Dutch and their potatoes and tours, request a copy of the April 10, 2012 issue of the Windmill Herald (as long as supply lasts).