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South Africa: Potato prices and volumes in happy equilibrium

Potato prices are at a level that satisfies farmers, agents and consumers at the moment, market agents say. Prices are remaining strong while volumes remain steady. Yesterday there was just over a million x 10kg bags of potatoes in stock across the national markets with an average price of R38 per 10kg (for all classes and sizes). The top 10% of medium-sized potatoes obtained R4,80 per kg yesterday nationally.

“We’re pleasantly surprised, we were thinking it could be a negative year, but we’re very grateful for the current prices,” says Louis Cilliers of Botha & Roodt market agency at the Tshwane market. “At the moment it’s around R4 a kg for large potatoes, which is a healthy price. At that level the farmer makes a profit while it’s still acceptable to consumers. If it goes higher than that, demand drops.”

Potatoes are currently coming in from northern production areas around Dendron, Swartwater, Tom Burke, Vivo and Baltimore, in Limpopo Province, the largest potato-producing area in the country. 

After last year’s drop in volumes, when only 214 million bags were produced, mostly due to drought conditions, this year is expected to climb back to normal levels.

The value of the local potato industry is estimated at around R21 billion, when downstream processing is included. The industry has the added benefit of being a major job creator within the agricultural sector.

In a country like South Africa where it is estimated that more than 30 million people are food-insecure, potatoes play a significant role in addressing hunger and poverty. 

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