The potato (solanum tuberosum) is recognised as an important foodstuff worldwide and is seen as a key component in the worldwide fight against hunger and malnutrition and the creation of food security. Potatoes are packed with vitamin B3, B5, B6, C and fibre. They are ranked after rice, wheat and maize as the world’s fourth largest food crop. (Some sources like the International Potato Centre – see next heading – rank potatoes third, after rice and wheat).

In addition to being eaten as a vegetable by humans, potatoes can be used as feed for livestock. The domestic processing sector uses potatoes for three processed products i.e. crisps, frozen and fresh French fries. Potato starch is used in the food industry as a thickener and binder of soups and sauces, and elsewhere as an adhesive and for the manufacturing of papers and boards. It holds potential as a base for biodegradable packaging too. Potatoes can also be used to brew alcoholic beverages like vodka.

Potatoes can also be used, of course, as seed tubers for growing the next season’s crop.

Source: Potatoes South Africa (adapted) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato 

International business environment

  • World potato production was estimated at 458.5 million tonnes in 2018 (FAOSTAT, 2020).
  • The traditionally largest potato producing and consuming countries (Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Russia) still have the highest per capita consumption (more than 100kg per capita per annum). However, China (90.3 million tonnes, 20 percent of global production) and India (48.5 million tonnes, 11% of global production) have surpassed them in terms of total production (BFAP, 2020).
  • With the 2.46 million tonnes of potatoes produced in 2018, South Africa contributed 0.5 percent of the global potato production (BFAP, 2020).

Further reference:

  • www.cipotato.org – website of the International Potato Center (CIP). CIP Publications include a wide range of literature on potatoes, sweet potatoes, andean roots and tubers, potato diseases, true potato seed, and much more. English and Spanish titles available.
  • www.potatopro.com – “The resource for the global potato industry”
  • Find the latest Overview Global Potato Market at www.freshplaza.com.

 

South Africa: imports and exports

  • Ninety percent of South Africa exports go almost completely to African countries (PPECB, 2020), with SADC ones topping the list: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, eSwatini and Mozambique (South African Market Insights, 2020). Another 8.4% goes to the Middle East (PPECB, 2020)
  • The annual Food Trade SA publication is a good source of export statistics for fresh produce, including potatoes. Find it at https://ppecb.com/documents.

Local business environment

  • The value of the primary potato industry amounted to about R8 billion and the secondary industry about R25 billion in 2018.
  • Since 2015, the crop size moved between 245 and 250 million 10 kg bags sideways with the exception of 2016 when the crop dropped below 220 million 10 kg bags due to poor climate conditions.
  • The hectares planted in potatoes in South Africa have been moving sideways over the last 10 years between 50 000 hectares and 54 000 hectares, which is less than 1% of the land used for agricultural purposes but creates between 8% and 10% of jobs in the primary agricultural sector.
  • Around 600 producers in 16 production regions ensuring a permanent supply of fresh potatoes.
    The bulk of potatoes are grown in Limpopo, the Western Free State, the Sandveld (Western Cape), and the Eastern Free State.
  • Except for the Eastern Free State, most potato production (85%) happens under irrigation.
    In terms of hectares the Eastern Free State is the largest production area with some 9 989 hectares.
  • The most potatoes are produced in Limpopo because it is primarily produced under irrigation.
    Potato production is particularly labour intensive.

The potato crop is distributed as follows:

  • Formal market (Fruit & Veg City, Pick ‘n Pay etc).
  • Informal market (informal traders who buy 10kg pockets and repackage them for sale in smaller quantities).
  • Processing (McCain Foods, Simba, etc).
  • Seed for the next season’s crop.
  • Export – South Africa is not a major exporter of potatoes. Exports go mainly to neighbouring countries.
Source: Potatoes South Africa

Further reference:

  • Find statistics and other information relevant to this heading at www.potatoes.co.za.
  • The annual Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline Agricultural Outlook includes a discussion on potatoes. Find the document at www.bfap.co.za.
  • The annual A Profile of the South African Potato Market Value Chain put out by the Directorate Marketing at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) provides a useful overview of this sector. Find it here.
  • Potato producers market more than 60% of their yields at national fresh produce markets (PSA, 2020). How efficiently are you transporting your potatoes to the market? Find the latest Transport Cost Model on the PSA website.

Potato farming: Award-winning farmer, Zama Buthelezi, shows us how (video from Farmer's Weekly, 2018)

For the newcomer

Find grower guides and other information under the “Websites and publications” heading.

National strategy and government contact

Find the “Relevant legislation” option at www.potatoes.co.za.

  • Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) www.dalrrd.gov.za  Find details of relevant Directorates like Directorate: Plant Health and Directorate: Plant Production on the website.
  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Tel: 012 341 1115 www.namc.co.za Statutory levies administered by the NAMC go to the Potato Industry Development Trust.
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB)Tel: 021 930 1134 www.ppecb.com
  • Plantovita plays the important role of detecting and identifying any harmful diseases that threaten the potato sector. Read about Plantovita at www.plantovita.co.za. 
  • Product Control for Agriculture (Prokon) Tel: 012 325 4579 www.prokonsa.co.za Prokon is authorised by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to apply the official requirements applicable to the grading, marking and packing of potatoes.

Associations involved

Potatoes South Africa (PSA) Tel: 012 349 1906 www.potatoes.co.za PSA is the representative industry organisation and plays a leadership role in sustainable potato production in South Africa. PSA could be regarded as the engine room of the industry and through its core businesses PSA involves the full spectrum of activities and role players in the potato industry on its committees and forums. Detailed information on these core businesses can be obtained from the PSA website.

Potato Certification Service (PCS) Tel: 012 349 1910 www.potatocertification.co.za PCS is responsible for the certification of seed potatoes with a phyto-sanitary status – in respect of diseases and pests – that falls within the predetermined norms and which are true to type. The South African Potato Certification Scheme which is promulgated under the Plant Improvement Act, 1976 (Act No. 53 of 1976), requires that each generation of seed potatoes must comply with quality standards. To ensure the sustainability of seed production in South Africa, the Scheme is based on disease-free material as base material (zero tolerance). Find details on the website of SAMPRO (South African Mini Tuber Producers), NUMPRO (Nuclear Material Producers), the Seed Potato Grower’s Forum and the Seed Potato Traders’ Forum.

Product Control for Agriculture (Prokon) Tel: 012 325 4579 www.prokonsa.co.za Prokon is contracted by PSA Prokon to render comprehensive and cost effective quality assurance, product management and grading services to the potato industry. It also provides pack house training on farms to ensure better quality produce being delivered to the fresh produce and markets and other outlets.

KORKOM http://korkom.co.za

Training and research

Training

  • Agricultural Colleges provide courses in vegetable production. Potato production is included, or can be a separate course all on its own. At Cedara in KwaZulu-Natal, Poster Training Modules are also available. Contact 033 355 9304.
  • AgriSETA-accredited trainers (see www.agriseta.co.za).

In addition to the training provided to developing potato producers, PSA also manages the Potato Industry Development Trust Bursary Scheme which makes bursaries available to deserving students for diploma, undergraduate and post graduate studies related to the potato industry.

 

Research

Research is addressed under the core PSA businesses. For more information go to www.potatoes.co.za (find the “research” menu option).

  • AMT Dr Johnny van der Merwe – 073 140 2698 vegetables [at] amtrends.co.za www.agrimark.co.za
  • ARC-VOP (Vegetable and Ornamental Plant) Tel: 012 841 9861 ajoubert [at] arc.agric.za
  • Universities and Agricultural Colleges/Provincial Departments of Agriculture do research and training in potatoes. In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, the contact is Morgan Naidoo at 033 355 9499 or morgan.naidoo [at] kzndard.gov.za. Find the list of agricultural colleges and universities on the “Agricultural education and training” page.

Companies involved

 

Bag manufacturers

 

Exporters

 

Machinery/equipment

 

Some processors

 

Mini Tuber Producers

 

Seed potatoes

Websites and publications

www.potatoes.co.za is definitely a first stop! It has back ground, business and network information. Also find publications that can be downloaded e.g. Best practice for the handling of seed potatoes, Potato guidelines and CHIPS articles. CHIPS is a magazine targeted specifically at the potato industry. This too can be read on the Potatoes South Africa website.

Contact Potatoes South Africa for the following:

  • The Potato Industry Report is published annually and provides an overview on the activities of Potatoes South Africa, Potato Certification Service, Prokon and Potato Laboratory Services.
  • The Potato Production Quick Reference Guide was published to serve as a handy guide for small scale potato producers. It is available in English, Zulu and Sotho from Potatoes South Africa free of charge.
  • The Guide to Potato Production in South Africa (also in Afrikaans: Handleiding vir aartappelproduksie in Suid-Afrika) constitutes 173 pages of useful information for farmers, students and field officers.

Visit www.potatonation.co.za, a campaign by Potatoes South Africa.

Find the notes on potatoes at www.aboutpotatoes.co.za.

Find the Info Paks on potato production under “Resource Centre” at www.dalrrd.gov.za. Also on the DALRRD website, on the Directorate Marketing pages, take a look at the annual Potato Market Chain Value Profile and the Sweet Potato Market Value Chain Profile.

CD Roms from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research)  include: (i) Crop Pests, Vol. 3: Potatoes And Other Vegetables (also available as a book) (ii) Medically Important Spiders And Scorpions Of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.

The ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) has a publication Agro-processing of Root Crops (Asparagus, beetroot, carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potato). Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] arc.agric.za for a copy.

Guide to Sweet Potato Production in South Africa can be ordered from the ARC-VOP. Find details about the publication on www.arc.agric.za.

The AgriSETA Assessment Guide Primary Agriculture “Monitor the establishment of a crop” includes potato tubers. Another relevant learner guide is “Harvesting agricultural crops“.

Find the Nation in Conversation overview of the potato industry (March 2017) on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmMvPA2yt7o

A number of leaflets are available from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, including “Potato production for small-scale farmers” and “The production of sweet potatoes”. Find these at www.kzndard.gov.za.

Find the “Vegetables” option at https://wikifarmer.com.

Find the grower notes “How to plant and harvest a sweet potato crop” on www.farmersweekly.co.za.

 

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