SA potato crisis: the chips are down

2010-08-03 00:00

SOUTH Africans may have to settle for fish without chips, and bangers without mash following news of a nationwide potato shortage that is set to affect the availability of frozen and fresh potatoes.

Helen de Chalain, the marketing director of giant frozen foods manufacturer McCain Foods (SA) told The Witness yesterday that adverse weather conditions this year have affected the quality of the crop.

She explained that a wet summer coupled with early black frost during a severe winter will reduce the supply of products to consumers and businesses in the food service, retail and quick service restaurant industry.

De Chalain added that although they hope to minimise the impact on consumers, prices may rise in the coming months.

The critical period is August to November 2010.

McCain’s MD Philip Nieman stated that heavy rains earlier in the year delayed the harvesting process.

De Chalain said that they have noted a serious deterioration in the quality of potatoes during their weekly “chip evaluations”.

She said that although they have been importing potato products from Europe in order to meet market demand, this is no longer an economically viable option as European prices have risen in recent weeks.

The products affected include chips, wedges and roast potatoes.

“Despite our efforts, we anticipate that stock shortages and quality issues will remain with us for the next few months.

“We apologise in advance to our customers for this dire situation, which is entirely beyond our control. We will continue to explore every possible solution to address the problem and minimise the negative consequences to our customers,” added Nieman.

De Chalain said they hope that the situation will return to normality during the festive season rush in December.

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