The South African potato industry recently hosted its very own State of the Potato Industry Address (Sopia), which entailed an overview of this vital sector and commodity. This inaugural Potatoes South Africa (PSA) event was presented on 5 May 2021.
The initiative aimed to give a voice to all the players (producers, distributors, informal and formal traders, and consumers) that continuously move the potato industry forward.
Dr Brylyne Chitsunge, commercial farmer and Pan-African Parliament’s ambassador for food security in Africa, highlighted the role of the potato in ensuring food and nutrition security in South Africa. Dr Chitsunge said, as a crop that is relatively easy to propagate and has such high nutritional value, it is a crucial crop for small-scale and commercial farmers to produce. As a female farmer, she also emphasized the important role that women can play in driving food security in SA.
The second guest speaker of the event was Thabi Nkosi, agricultural economist of African Green Alpha. She gave an overview of the production of potatoes in the country and emphasised that potatoes have the potential to become an even bigger commodity, such as maize.
Although potatoes are the world’s fourth most significant food crop after maize, wheat and rice, its health benefits and ability to ensure food security means that the industry needs to expand even further, said Nkosi.
Willie Jacobs, CEO of PSA, delivered the official SOPIA speech and discussed the impact that Covid-19 has had on the industry, and how potatoes could contribute to recovering from the pandemic. According to Jacobs, despite the chaos brought about by Covid-19, South African potato producers planted on approximately 51,000 hectares, produced a total crop of 2,6 million tons and delivered 263 million 10 kg bags of potatoes during 2020.