Positive growth for potato industry

I recently attended a Potatoes SA (PSA) Information Day at Patensie, not far from Port Elizabeth. The area is well-known for its citrus and potatoes, which seem to occupy all of the limited, open flat spaces available.

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Dr André Jooste, CEO of PSA, gave an interesting overview of the potato industry and the direction in which PSA and the sector are heading. When you consider that South Africa’s potato farmers number about 700 and produce our single most important vegetable crop on about 50 000ha, then they deserve our admiration. They are expected to deliver over 220 million 10kg pockets of potatoes to the markets this year – and that figure does not include processors or other sales outlets.

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Jooste said that potato consumption in this country had risen from below 35kg to over 40kg per capita per annum. This struck a chord with me, because I’ve written on previous occasions on how our national consumption of all fresh produce is woefully lacking. When compared with many other countries where potatoes are consumed, we’re still way behind, and the improved figure is wonderful news.

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I’m sure that PSA’s dedicated promotion of potatoes over the years has played its part. I don’t have a national figure for all fresh produce, but the potato statistic will do fine. If the current 220 million pockets through the markets can grow by a modest 30%, then 286 million pockets will have reached consumers. Take an average price of R30/pocket x 286 million, and we see more than R8,5 billion being contributed to the turnover of markets.

Ample food

If the four main vegetable groups – potatoes, onions, tomatoes and cabbage – each grew by 30% per year, our markets would find the existing critical shortage of trading floor space becoming a major crisis. In a country that has such huge agricultural potential, the increased production of many products – not only fresh produce – offers exciting possibilities – and challenges.

Merely by taking one small step at a time, we can ensure ample food for all our people in the years to come.