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Potatoes prices on the rise. (Image: Getty)
  • Potato prices are on the rise and are over 20% more expensive as Limpopo reels from frost damage in July.
  • Farmers are lifting fewer potatoes; as a result, a market analyst for fresh produce has said.
  • Potatoes delivered to markets decreased by 14% last week.
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Potato prices in South Africa became more than 20% more expensive over the past week due to a low supply of the staple vegetable. Limpopo continues to reel from frost damage that affected crops at the end of July.

Last week, the average weekly price for the staple vegetable climbed by as much as 22% to R66,43 for a 10kg bag.

The price is 7% higher than last year at the same time, Dr Johnny van der Merwe, managing director of agricultural information group Agrimark Trends (AMT), said in his weekly YouTube video that tracks the market prices for fresh produce in South Africa.

Limpopo, a major producing region of potatoes for this time of year, experienced icy weather in July that resulted in frost that left some crops damaged.

By the end of August, farmers were sending lower volumes to the fresh produce markets, and in turn, causing a spike in prices for some vegetable commodities such as spinach and peppers.

Last week, potatoes delivered to markets by farmers decreased sharply, by 14%, Van Der Merwe said.

The recent frost in Limpopo is an added blow to the prices of potatoes which had already been on the rise. In June, prices for a 10kg bag soared by as much as 12% to R56.53, as the industry was still recovering from heavy rainfall in January and cold weather conditions in the northern parts of the country.

The rainfalls came during a critical planting season. They simultaneously weighed on production, which resulted in weaker potato harvests in east and west Free State and some parts of the Northern Cape, all of which were the significant sources of potatoes at that time of year.

"Because of the rain that we had this year… the winter prices for potatoes are the highest up till now," Pieter van Zyl, AMT's regular market analyst, said.  

Van Zyl said potato volumes delivered to markets last week were the lowest since 2018 and that: "Not enough potatoes were lifted the previous Friday and over the weekend. It shows you what an empty market floor can do when people need to buy a staple food, in this case, potatoes," he said. 

He said he expects sales volumes to stay below normal levels in October, "simply because of the frost damage experienced in Limpopo".

According to Potatoes SA, 8.1 million bags of potatoes were sold in August, which was only just 150 thousand bags more than a year ago.

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