Consumers who are thinking of the traditional potato salad or baked potatoes drizzled with chicken juice on Christmas Day must think again as the price of their favourite spud has gone through the roof.
By Nomalanga Tshuma
CONSUMERS who are thinking of the traditional potato salad or baked potatoes drizzled with chicken juice on Christmas Day must think again as the price of their favourite spud has gone through the roof.
Currently, a 7kg bag of potatoes costs between R110 and R120, while a 10kg bag costs about R189.99 at grocery stores like Checkers, OK and Food Lovers Market.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture said South African potato prices surged by more than double over the year, increasing by 102% in October 2023, exceeding the 2022 mid-October potato average prices and setting a new high staple for the vegetable.
The department said in week 38 of 2023, potato prices averaged R10,704 per ton, an increase of 21% week-on-week, driven by a decline of 27% week-on-week to 13 291 tons.
Western Cape Department of Agriculture spokesperson Ayabonga Sibulali said the industry’s price surge was driven by increased power cuts and an increase in farm input costs.
“The domestic potato prices were already trading on the headline, with a 10kg bag reaching R66.43, pushed by a 22% increase due to potato farmers sending lower volumes to the domestic markets, and no imports being lifted from the northern producers.
“The commercial market depends largely on the international market of potatoes, which can be influenced by commodity markets and global market events (such as anti-dumping import duties on frozen potato chips by the South African government).
“An increase in the local production and supply of potatoes would assist in slowing down the potato prices in South Africa … Food prices have a significant impact on consumers and this can be detrimental to their food security at household level in the short-run,” Sibulali said.
South African Agricultural Union (Agri SA) president Jaco Minnaar echoed this sentiment, saying that in addition to load shedding and the drier conditions in the country’s northern regions where about 60% of local potatoes were farmed, low output by suppliers also added to the price hike.
Minnaar said because the South African potato farming market was struggling to meet the needs of production, the country was relying on importing. However, even that was hard hit by high-cost prices influenced by factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“The cost of producing potatoes has increased significantly over the past year or two. This affected the number of hectares planted which meant fewer hectares were available for harvesting.
“Another thing to note is that we are coming out of the winter season. Changing seasons also disrupt the availability of potatoes or any vegetable on the markets.
“However, that’s not to say there won’t be any relief, because of the demand we will see an increase in production and this should lead to prices stabilising.
“Again, I cannot say when this will happen, and that’s perfectly reasonable. But as we go into the new season, there will be more potatoes in the market, however, production will take time,” Minnaar said.