Drought doubles potato prices to record high

iStock

Johannesburg - Potato prices have more than doubled in 2016 from a year earlier as the worst drought in more than a century cuts yields in growing regions, an industry body said.

The national average price for a 10 kilogram pocket of medium potatoes jumped to R63.30 in the week ended March 11 from last year’s average of R28.45, Pieter van Zyl, an agricultural economist at Potatoes South Africa, said by phone on March 15.

“This is the highest on record,” Van Zyl said. “I don’t think it will go higher than what we see.”

The nation last year suffered its lowest rainfall since records began in 1904, cutting output of crops such as grains, wine grapes and peanuts. Farmers in potato-producing provinces such as Limpopo, which has the biggest output, the Free State and the North West need rain to fill boreholes and dams.

“There are no exceptions - all the regions have experienced a dry spell, not much rain or no rain at all and excessive heat conditions,” he said. “That’s the reason prices are very high currently.”

In 2015, the country’s potato farmers produced an average of 46 metric tons per hectare for both irrigated and rain-fed fields. For growers in the eastern Free State, who depend solely on rain, the lack thereof means yields will be two thirds lower than last year, when they produced 30 tons per hectare.

“Currently they are not even doing 10 tons per hectare - these guys are really struggling,” said Van Zyl.

ZAR/USD
16.81
(-0.26)
ZAR/GBP
21.34
(-0.12)
ZAR/EUR
19.02
(-0.13)
ZAR/AUD
11.73
(-0.21)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(+0.60)
Gold
1681.70
(+0.13)
Silver
17.39
(+0.17)
Platinum
815.55
(+0.35)
Brent Crude
41.90
(+5.78)
Palladium
1949.00
(+0.59)
All Share
54722.38
(+2.85)
Top 40
50199.80
(+2.79)
Financial 15
11467.53
(+4.66)
Industrial 25
74264.52
(+2.52)
Resource 10
49969.31
(+2.29)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'm not really directly affected
20% - 225 votes
I am taking a hit, but should be able to recover in the next year
26% - 294 votes
My finances have been devastated
29% - 335 votes
It's still too early to know what the full effect will be
26% - 293 votes
Vote