The potato shortage crisis and how it’s affected the pricing of the starchy bulb
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For many consumers, meat and potatoes is a way of life. Potatoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colours.
They are a great source of micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. But they are also starchy and don’t offer a lot of dietary fibre or protein.
With all these amazing health benefits under its name, it’s so unfortunate that potatoes are becoming unevenly available in some countries and fast-food chains because of a confluence of factors.
The Washington Post reported that in Japan, McDonald’s locations stopped offering large and medium-size french fry orders late last month, after pandemic-related supply chain issues and floods in the Port of Vancouver delayed potato shipments.
They reported that in Kenya this month, Kentucky Fried Chicken locations struck french fries, known locally as chips, from menus, as virus-related shipping delays held up containers full of potatoes for more than a month.
They also reported that late last month, South Africa's leading makers of potato chips warned that potatoes were in short supply after a bad frost and excessive rains led to low local yields, on top of global sourcing shortages.
In October, IOL Lifestyle reported on this incident of bad harvest weather that has caused potato shortages in South Africa. Potato crop damage due to cold and wet weather caused a shortage of the starchy bulb in the country, which affected the availability and the price.
In an interview on the breakfast show on Cape Talk with Refilwe Moloto, the general manager of Messaris Nuts and Crisps, the oldest potato crisp manufacturer in South Africa, Nick Messaris, said early winter cold snaps have almost decimated the potato supply in South Africa.
“We have had a rather bad potato crop in South Africa. Farmers in the northeast of the country have had almost a disastrous crop due to the cold snaps that we had earlier in the winter,” Messaris said.
The price increase
Messaris said due to the above, there has been very poor yield in the crops, and that affected the price. He said if you go to the market, you are looking at anywhere between R80 and R100 for a 10kg bag compared to the initial price, which is between R40 to R50.
AgriSA executive director Christo van der Rheede, told IOL that he doesn't think the rains posed much of a threat for this year as crops are grown across areas that experience rains in different parts of the year.
Van der Rheede said costs were impacted by supply and demand and during the festive season, there is a demand for fresh produce. He said a lot of people are buying stock during the festive time, and yes, the rain will be a setback but produce is produced in different areas so they expect this to bring the price down.
He also highlighted the fact that farmers are often massively impacted by increasing petrol and diesel costs. He said another factor that impacts farmers and pricing, is the increasing costs of fertiliser.
“Our biggest challenge at this point is the massive spike in fertiliser prices. Also (the cost of) herbicides, labour, and packaging has increased,” he said.
Van der Rheede said the sector is also impacted by the rise in fuel costs, and that he is hoping that prices will come down, especially this year.