Potato and onion prices see major spike as load-shedding bites

The current cost of potatoes and onions have left South African consumers reeling, with a 7kg pocket of potatoes costing at least 100% more now than it did a year ago, while a 10kg bag of onions was 63% higher year-on-year (y/y).

Potato and onion prices see major spike as load-shedding bites
- Advertisement -

At most large retailers, a 7kg bag of potatoes was trading at between R110 and R150, while a 10kg bag of onions was trading at R180 to R250, depending on the class. A 10kg bag of white onions was trading at R130 to R140, while a 10kg bag of red onions was trading at R280.

According to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, potato prices have more than doubled over the past year, showing a 102% increase in price in October 2023. Data collected from the Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy has shown that the instability in demand for fresh produce has exacerbated increases owing to lower outputs.

Commenting on the radical increase in prices, Potatoes South Africa said it was important to note that farmers had no control over pricing.

- Advertisement -

Hanrie Greebe, communications manager at Potatoes South Africa, said prices were determined by fresh produce markets, responding to market dynamics like supply and demand, and were influenced by seasonal variations, product availability and grading.

Greebe said one of the primary factors contributing to the price increase was the significant impact of load-shedding on the industry, which had hindered farmers from maintaining consistent irrigation practices.

“Consequently, they’ve had to scale back their usual produce planting.”

This challenge, Greebe said, had been exacerbated by escalating input costs, such as fertiliser, linked to current geopolitical factors.

“Additionally, in the past year, other commodities have displayed higher profitability than potatoes, prompting many farmers to reduce their potato cultivation. Furthermore, specific regions have encountered reduced yields, compounding the overall issue.”

However, Greebe said there was some good news.

“In the coming months, we’re looking forward to a notable boost in production from Limpopo. This optimistic outlook follows a less-than-ideal growing season in the region due to unusually cold weather during the previous harvest.”

Going forward, Greebe said, as with all commodities, prices would fluctuate based on market conditions.

Speaking about the price of onions, Willem de Klerk, market agent at PV Fresh Produce Market Agents, said the onion-growing season had been badly affected by load-shedding, which had hindered irrigation, as not all farmers had the capital to run their pivots from generators. He added that spraying programmes had been complicated by heavy rains and further hampered by escalating chemical, energy and transport costs.

According to De Klerk, prices have not eased because the supply of onions, particularly of larger sizes, remained limited.

Previous articleDealing with seed problems in Angoras
Next articleWhich is best: fresh or frozen meat?
Jyothi Laldas is an accomplished journalist with 15 years of experience in the news media industry. She has established herself as a respected voice in the field, known for her keen insights and passion for storytelling. Jyothi grew up on a farm in rural KwaZulu-Natal, a background that instilled in her a deep appreciation for hard work and the importance of community. Her passion for writing and learning about people has been a driving force throughout her career, enabling her to connect with her audience and bring important stories to light. Jyothi‘s journalistic journey has been marked by her dedication to providing accurate and impactful reporting on a range of topics.