Record potato prices in October bring respite for farmers

Record potato prices in October bring respite for farmers
A cold winter in Limpopo, South Africa’s largest potato production region, has resulted in reduced volumes on the country’s fresh produce markets, which have sent prices skyrocketing. Photo: FW Archive
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Potato prices across all classes and markets reached record levels of more than R80 for a 10kg bag in October, surpassing the previous record set in 2016 of R63/10kg bag, according to Dr Andre Jooste, CEO of Potatoes South Africa.

He said that since mid-June, potato prices were 46% higher than during the same period last year, and added that these were ‘anti-seasonal prices’, which were the result of lower supplies on the markets.

This was largely due to the unusually cold winter experienced in Limpopo, the country’s largest potato-producing province, which affected the early harvest there, leading to lower supply levels on fresh produce markets around the country.

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“For example, prices started increasing from June [instead of] September [as is usually the case], which was similar to what happened in 2016 at the height of the drought.”

Nico Wagner, a potato producer in Limpopo, said the potatoes currently on the market were planted in April and were hit by the first frost in May and again in July, which affected their growth and reduced yields.

He added that supplies would normalise again when the potatoes planted in June, which had largely remained unaffected by frost, came onto the market. This crop would be harvested between October and November.

“Prices might move sideways, but this will be determined by demand. Normal average prices are between R40 and R45/10kg bag,” he said.

“Farmers [were currently receiving] prices averaging between R65 and R72/10kg bag for first grade medium [potatoes], which is almost 50% more than the average price for this time of the year.”

According to Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council, the national fresh produce market price of potatoes averaged R81,89/10kg bag in Cape Town, R80,96/10kg bag in Johannesburg, and R76,78/10kg bag in Durban during October.

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