The aim of the event is to give producers and market agents the latest production and marketing statistics, trends and forecasts for potatoes and onions in and around Ceres.
Potatoes South Africa (PSA) provided an overview of the national potato production and marketing scenario. The mood was sombre as the impact of the drought was highlighted by speaker after speaker. PSA’s Louise Swart said that in January, one million fewer pockets of potatoes had been delivered to markets than in the same month last year.
This scarcity is reflected in high prices. A market agent told me that 10kg potato pockets were going for R75 each at his market that very morning.
Another agent said that prices like these were likely to produce a consumer backlash. Whether this happens, will largely depend on what retailers will be charging in the months ahead. As I’ve said before, some tend to ‘forget’ to adjust their retail prices according to what the market charges.
Faced by high prices, will they continue to maintain generous margins or adapt to help alleviate the pressure on the consumer?
Representatives of the onion industry presented an equally worrying picture. Cobus Vorster, chairperson of the Northern Onion Committee, said that 33% of onion farmers were unsure if they would even plant this year.
Echoing this sentiment, Kulver Mûlke from the Northern Cape Onion Producers’ Association said that farmers along rivers such as the Orange and near large dams would be able to plant, but for those reliant on borehole water it was a different story. The region was already down one million pockets on this time last year, and up to 60% of the crop was rated as lower quality. On the plus side, good quality was fetching premium prices.
Tough and resilient
Despite the gloom, all speakers tried to remain positive. Korkom chairperson Rossouw Cillié was optimistic that the potato and onion industries would recover from this setback. We are going through tough times and I feel for those producers unable to plant. But our farmers have shown again and again how resilient they are – they’ll get through this!