Challenges for local potato production

26 November 2018 - Published by Hein Braaksma
In 2016 west Sweden used approximately 2,300 hectares of farmland for potato production. That corresponds to around 13% of Sweden’s total production of ware potatoes. Today there is a trend towards a wider range of varieties in assortment, refinement and packaging. Is there also an increased demand for locally produced potatoes from policymakers for public meals served in schools and hospitals? This was one of the topics for a seminar held 31st of October 2018.

The event also touched upon different diseases affecting potatoes and their resistance to these. Farmers were informed about the serious situation we have with spreading of quarantine pests and the importance to find potatoes with resistance to leaf mold. If you are unlucky to have your fields affected by quarantine pests’ it´ll have a huge effect on your following years of cultivation. An effective way to minimize the risk is to carefully select a supplier with reliable seed potatoes. It is also important to always use clean machines on your fields to avoid contamination.

Quality trumps price in public procurement
REFRAME has co-arranged several seminars to enlighten public procurers about their possibilities to acquire locally produced food. Potatoes is one of the products that has been studied throughout the value chain. The tendency in Sweden is clear, policy makers show an increasingly open interest to support locally produced food. The public procurement act within EU limits the scope of action, but there are still ways to acquire the desired products. One way is to formulate specific quality criteria that helps the purchaser point at small scale and local production. And the quality demands always come first – you can only fight on price if you achieve the outspoken quality criteria. 

REFRAME – towards a regional food frame
Within the REFRAME pilot in West Sweden there has been a study specifically on potatoes and how to get local producers to win a public procurement deals. And it is certainly not easy. There are challenges concerning for example logistics. Public kitchens are currently constructed to handle refined food and ready-to-heat products are standard. This makes it hard for small scaled producers to fit in the process. But during this project we have noticed a change of interests towards less refined products. We have found that a solution-oriented dialogue is a possible way forward – towards a regional food frame in the public meal segment.