1. Botany and origin
The potato (Solanum tuberosum) belongs to the nightshade family and has its origin in South America. In the course of the discovery and exploration Americas the potatoes reached europe due to spanish navigators. At first they were seen as decorative plants because of the foreign farming methods and the unfamiliar preparation. In the early 19th century the potatoes became the foodstuff nr. 1 for people in europe.
The plantation of the potato tuber starts between the end of march and the middle of april. Depending on the output target the crop takes place between the middle of june (early potatoes) and october (warehouse and starch potatoes). The crop per hectare varies between 320 quintals and 460 quintals.
2. Quality criteria and usage
The potatoes are used as table-, seed- and industry potatoes, as well as a commodity for the starch- and alcohol industry.
There are different demands on the quality. The outer quality is mainly influenced by the size, the shape and the evenness of the tubers. The inner quality is determined by the starch content, the cooking quality, the dry matter content and the amount of reduction sugar.
Seed potatoes should be germinable and resistant against virus disease. Table potatoes should have a flawless skin and must be storable for a long time. Industry potatoes, which are used for the production of french fries or chips should contain a high dry matter content and must have the right shape. The starch industry requires a high starch content. The starch is not only used in the food industry, but also in the paper- and plasticindustry.
3. Production and trade
Potatoes were cultivated in europe 2013 on 1.7 mio. hectares according to the european statistical office. The crop amounted to 58.3 mio. tons. Germany ist the largest producer of potatoes (9.7 mio. tons) followed by Poland (7.1 mio. tons), France (6.9 mio. tons), the Netherlands (6.6 mio. tons) and Great Britain (5.7 mio. tons). 2014 was a extraordinary year for Germany. The crop amounted to 11.5 mio tons on 267.000 hectares.
4. Commodity futures market
Beside the local marketplaces like in Rotterdam, the price for potatoes is mainly determined on the Eurex in Frankfurt.
The price of potatoes can be described as very volatile regarding to the last years. In peak years like 2011 and 2013 the price was above 33€. In between there was a price around 5€. This year we even come below that price (2,60€). Becauce of this potatoes are predestinated for hedging activities.
All information is supplied without guarantee. Source of exchange rates: Eurex