The underground wonder that creates food security, jobs and economic advancement–the potato


The value of the primary potato industry in South Africa amounts to about R8 billion and the secondary industry about R25 billion. The size of the potato crop has moved just over 200 million 10kg bags sideways for several years. Since 2015, the crop size moves between 245 and 255 million bags sideways. The amount of hectares planted with potatoes in South Africa has been moving sideways over the last 10 years between 50 000 hectares and 54 000 hectares, which accounts for less than 1% of the land used for agricultural purposes but creates between 8% and 10% of jobs in the primary agricultural sector.

In many cases, labour wages are a key lifeline for the survival of smaller rural villages. The Free State plants about 33% (Eastern Free State 20% and the Western Free State 13%) of the total hectares under potatoes. The higher production coupled with hectares moving sideways implies that producers’ average returns have improved over time. Over the past 20 years, the potato producer has managed to increase the average yield under irrigation and dryland production from 30 tons per hectare to 47.

One of the biggest challenges the potato producer faces is the ongoing increase in production and marketing costs at a rate higher than inflation, while potato prices in real terms have moved more or less sideways over the past decade.

However, since 2015, there has been a rising trend in real potato prices, which, together with rising consumption, is beneficial to the potato industry.

Potatoes South Africa has deliberately invested in various models to quantify the impact of cost increases on the potato industry. This enables Potatoes South Africa to communicate the impact of, for example, administered costs such as fuel, labour and electricity on the potato industry to government institutions and organised agriculture.

Potatoes South Africa is committed to potato producers in South Africa and serving their best interests. The activities of Potatoes South Africa are the direct outcome of decisions by potato producers due to a system of regional meetings and committees on which potato producers serve.

The commitment of potato producers to be involved in operating activities and structures unlocks the value proposition of cohesion and co-operation to their own benefit. The benefits are competitive advantage through the optimal use of resources, a unified voice, credibility, creating a platform to give back to the broader community and visibility on industry issues.

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Issue 46


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