Hard times ahead for potatoes

Potatoes South AfricaPotatoes South Africa’s industry report for the 2012/2013 year shows that, just as the rest of the agricultural sector was negatively impacted by labour strikes, the potato industry, too, experienced one of its most difficult years yet. This industry is also following the trends of other agricultural sectors where farmers are leaving the country.

‘In 2012, there were 635 active potato producers compared with 679 the previous year,’ explains Ernst Yzel, chairperson of Potatoes South Africa. However, roughly 1 700 hectares more were planted in 2012 than the previous year, resulting in a record crop of 2.2 million tonnes of potatoes for the year.

‘Nevertheless, the average market price increased by 50 per cent from the previous year,’ comments Dr André Jooste, CEO of the association. ‘The hectares in respect of the 2013 crop should be about 3 200 hectares less than in 2012, which means that the size of the crop will drop slightly.’

The 2012/2013 period, which was marred with labour strikes, is expected to herald in an era where agriculture may change unrecognisably. ‘Studies conducted have indicated that it would be worthwhile for the larger potato farming enterprises to seriously consider mechanisms which, if implemented on a large scale, could have a major negative impact on the availability of jobs and consequently on the stability of the economy,’ concludes Yzel.