Our goal is to be close to the potato producers
Conversation of the AGROBIOOTECHNIKA Magazine with Mr. Wolfgang Walter, Manager of Norika Germany and Mr. Ruslan Svobodkov, Manager of Norika’s Commercial Representation in Bulgaria
At the beginning of the conversation, briefly present Norika and the products it presents?
Wolfgang Walter: Norika is a German company that selects new varieties of potatoes and produces high quality planting material. It is the successor of the Groß Lüsewitz agricultural institute located in northeastern Germany, privatized immediately after the unification of the country. Today, the company has more than 100 staff and operates in an area of 3000 hectares in Germany and 1,000 in neighboring countries. The enterprise has selected over 80 varieties of potatoes successfully sold in more than 45 countries worldwide, including Bulgaria.
Ruslan Svobodkov: Norika’s representation office in Bulgaria started in 2009, achieving significant results in the same season. Over the years, Norika Bulgaria has established itself as a leading supplier of quality seed potatoes. We offer potato seeds selected and produced in Germany. In addition to planting material, we import and export potatoes for consumption from and to the EU countries. From 2010 we participate annually at exhibitions and conduct open days in which we show the news from NORIKA and discuss the current questions posed by our producers.
For that matter, to what varieties are the customers most interested?
Ruslan Svobodkov: At the moment, we have focused the producers’ attention on a dozen varieties of Norika’s portfolio. Specifically, we can call “Soraya age” the last years. The exceptional taste, appearance and yeild potential make it among the most sought-after and perhaps Soraya is the most popular variety at the moment. The average yield of the variety is about 5 t / dka, possesses the necessary universality in use and its storage is at a very high level. Another popular variety is Allegria, which, apart from a variety for consumption, is widely used as a variety for processing into French fries. The variety forms large and shaped tubers, has excellent storage and appearance. From the early varieties of interest are the variety Borvina, SF Vario and Allora. All three varieties have good yield, appearance and taste. This makes them well positioned and preferred by potato growers. Allora is a new variety and results show great potential. Definitely this variety has a great future. Inara, Wega and Birgit are new varieties with excellent characteristics. Their demand is increasing annually. They are characterized by shaped tubers, high yield and excellent appearance. Traditional varieties which we offer to potato producers are Solist and Gala.
Overall, I can say that we are expanding the number of varieties offered every year. Of course this involves at least two years of testing in our soil and climatic conditions. For us it is important that the varieties offered are adaptable and suitable for growing in Bulgaria. In this way, we are trying to respond adequately to the rising demands of consumers, growers and the potato market as a whole. I think we are doing well with this task.
What challenges are the potato producers facing and what would you advise them to deal with them more easily?
Wolfgang Walter: Global challenges for potato growers are driven by changes in consumer lifestyles. Less and less people find it time to prepare food themselves during the week, b.c. they are committed to their work. Therefore, the proportion of processing varieties is constantly rising at the expense of consumption. On the other hand, more and more sales are being made through large retail chains, which puts additional requirements for sorting, cleaning and packaging the goods. Therefore, in order to work successfully, potato producers need to select the varieties they plant and invest in the appropriate machines and equipment for their farms. In this way, they will face the challenges they face.
Ruslan Svobodkov: The challenges facing potato producers every day are many and different. I would personally systemate them into three main groups. The first one is related to the modernization of farms. Since the accession of our country to the EU, our farmers have the opportunity to use a number of programs, enabling them to modernize their technical arsenal and the warehouse base. This requires farmers to be well informed, to get acquainted with the novelties and opportunities offered by European programs. They need to be flexible and varied, to look for and use opportunities. In this way, they improve their overall cultivation and storage technology, which automatically increases their competitiveness in the production process.
The second group of challenges is related to the realization of the production and the market conditions in which Bulgarian potato producers work. This group, for me, is crucial for the overall development of the sector. Here, farmers are faced with a number of challenges related to the unstable market price over the years, the ways and forms of realization of production. Imports of potatoes from the EU further complicate the realization of Bulgarian potatoes. I believe that it is crucial that producers maximize their yields in order to increase their competitiveness against imported products. Also look for new forms of implementation that respond to current trends in consumer shopping behavior. The orientation of consumers towards large retail chains as a shopping venue gradually shifts traditional markets as a place for the realization of agricultural goods. These trends have to be monitored by the producers by looking for ways to quickly adapt to the new conditions.
And last, but not least, a group of challenges is related to sharply changing, unstable natural and climatic conditions. Potato production is heavily dependent on natural and climatic conditions. The specifics of the potato as a culture, its requirements for heat and moisture, its sensitivity to certain diseases and pests make growing a big challenge. In this respect, potato producers must take into account the need for intensive irrigation, to carry out adequate plant protection practices to maximally protect the plant both from known and from new diseases and pests that have occurred in recent years as a result of global climate change .
What novelties can Norika growers expect?
Ruslan Svobodkov: I suppose everyone expects me to say – new, more profitable and good varieties. Of course this is the basis of our work and we will not disappoint the producers. We are working on new varieties, especially in the early group, and presented this summer the early Paroli variety, which we believe has tremendous potential and future. Allora also expects expectations, and interest in her is rising rapidly.
Also, our goal is to stay close to the producers, to assist and consult them when they need it, to observe their work, to give ideas and to solve problems. We do not look at manufacturers just as customers, they are partners for us, and we know we can count on them as they do to us.
We in NoriKa Bulgaria understand business as a two-way process based on principle, trust and partnership.