Swiss growers of sweet potatoes are struggling at the moment, and the weather is particularly responsible for this. The growers of the Batati cooperative therefore complain stone and bone: “the sweet potatoes were partially planted with 2-3 weeks delay, since the soil was not drivable in the first planting weeks due to the wet weather at the end of May. The relatively cool and especially very wet summer further slowed down the development of these heat-loving plants”, says director Simon van der Veer.

To this must be added the extraordinary hailstorms on 28 June 2021, which affected 30% of sweet potato areas. According to Simon, the hail has partly caused enormous leaf damage, so that the plants first had to form new leaves in order to continue growing. “This interplay led to the fact that the sales start only took place in mid-October, about four weeks later than in a ‘normal’ year. At the same time, we have to assume some of the higher crop losses in some fields. The number of tubers per plant and the quality are good, whereas the tuber weight is rather below average. Overall, the harvest is disappointing, but given the weather we have had that is not surprising.”

According to Simon, the storage and processing at the site in Fräschels, which was inaugurated in 2020, has proven itself. “Modern warehouses and short distances make it possible to work efficiently. Unfortunately, because of the weather for the second year in a row, we cannot fully use the capacity.”

The cooperative, founded in 2014, will hardly develop new sweet potato products at the moment. “Experience has shown that sweet potatoes are popular for retail and partly for industrial processing, especially large dropouts. On the other hand, the marketing of small sweet potatoes and Class II sweet potatoes is limited. Processed products are tasty and innovative, but so far Batati has not been able to successfully launch them on the market. The biggest stumbling block is always the price. As a result, expansion into neighbouring countries is not considered. Agricultural goods produced under Swiss conditions hardly reach the export market for price reasons at all.”

The last approximately 6 hectares of sweet potatoes have yet to be harvested, followed by the sale of these and the stock in storage. “At the same time, we are planning for the year 2022 and we hope that it will be a sweet potato year that will go down in history – with full crates and good quality,” Simon concludes.

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