Potato price highest on record

Industry association Potatoes South Africa (PSA) reports that potatoes reached a record price of R60 per 10kg on 19 January – the highest average weekly price on record for potatoes.

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The good news for farmers is that prices are expected to remain high for the next four to five months. However, potato stocks are at their lowest levels in many years, with product quality affected by high temperatures caused by heat waves.

In extremely hot conditions farmers have to double irrigation volume, and above average temperatures [have] make it difficult for farmers to maintain moisture levels, said PSA spokesperson Pieter van Zyl.

Although 80% of the total potato area is irrigated, the association is worried about dryland potato farmers in the eastern Free State. “This is our big concern, particularly farmers who planted late in 2015. These farmers have not received rain,” said Van Zyl.

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These producers have to prepare for low yields. “They are unlikely to get 10t/ha, which is less than half of what they would usually lift. Some farmers will not even be able to cover their direct costs,” he said.

South Africa is the only country in the world that produces fresh potatoes throughout the year. This means a shortage is unlikely. “There are always growers either planting or lifting,” said Van Zyl.