Belgium’s potato industry is asking for the goverment to chip in and help it survive the coronavirus lockdown.
While the country is well-known for its fries, the industry has few clients at home. On average, 90 per cent of potatoes are exported.
But with travel bans and restaurants closed around the world, the food supply chain has been disrupted.
“This is the first time ever that the potato sector is asking for support to the government,” admits Romain Cools, secretary general of Belgapom, the association representing the Belgian potato trade and processing industry.
He says the sector is facing so many difficulties due to EU legislation. He says tools to help in a crisis are not geared towards farmers.
Piles of potatoes are now stuck on farms and many don’t have the facilities to keep them fresh.
The European Commission says there is no specific programme to help farmers cope with the crisis. On Thursday, MEPs will debate ways to help agriculture sectors – like the Belgian potato industry – to recover from the slump.
In the meantime, the potato sector is looking for ways out of the crisis – including creative options, as Cools tells us.
“Some people ask us that, when the coronavirus is over… to have a big national Belgian fries festival! To enjoy and to make a party at the end of the crisis!”