Potato prices are up sharply, but they could stabilise – if the weather holds
- The prices of potatoes has been rising sharply due to heavy rainfall in January and cold weather conditions up north in June.
- A 10kg bag of potatoes can now set you back R56.50, compared to R44.30 a month ago.
- Prices may stabilise, but it all depends on the weather and the speed at which producers can lift potatoes from the ground.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
South Africa is currently experiencing a sharp rise in potato prices after extremely cold weather conditions in the northern parts of the country affected potato harvests.
Last week, the average price for a 10kg bag of potatoes soared 12% to R56.53.
In his weekly YouTube video that tracks the market prices for fresh produce in South Africa, Johnny Van der Merwe said that cold weather during the past two weeks weighed on production.
The price of potatoes increased while volumes were "22% lower than the long-term average for this specific week,” van der Merwe said.
“The weather is still impacting the production levels, especially with the colder weather to the north at the moment,” he said.
By Friday, the average price for potatoes had risen further to R58.58, according to data from industry association Potatoes South Africa.
A month ago, potato prices rose 11% to R44.29 compared to the week before.
The current price surge is due to weaker potato harvests, particularly in the east and west Free State as well as some parts of the Northern Cape, all of which are the major sources of potatoes at this time of year, Willie Jacobs, CEO of Potatoes SA, told Business Insider South Africa.
A combination of factors, including heavy rains at the start of the year (during their critical planting season), also contributed to lower yields.
“Around January, we had a lot of rain… that was actually the planting season for these guys who are going into the market now. So, this is basically the result of what happened,” Jacobs said.
“A lot of the guys had poor crop yields. Some of the product came into the market earlier as well, so we’re generally seeing a lower volume that is coming through, especially out of the Eastern Free state and the Western Free State,” he said.
Jacobs said the short-term price outlook is uncertain, citing possible shortfalls from producers in Limpopo who mainly harvest from August.
The speed at which potato farmers lift the products from the ground will largely determine whether prices remain high or drop for consumers, he said.
"The weather conditions are relatively favourable; they should be able to lift relatively consistently, there should be relative stability. We have to look at the weather conditions, and if there are any changes, there’ll be changes in the prices as well,” he said.
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