Government tightens up on imports to aid local growers and economy


05 June 2023
'Anti-dumping' duties re-imposed in South Africa.

SOUTH Africa's government is tightening up on cheap imports which are negatively impacting on local growers, having re-imposed anti-dumping duties of 8.8% to 239% on imported frozen potato chips from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

The country's total land area is approximately 122.3 million hectares, on which about 52,355 hectares of potatoes are planted every year. According to stats by Potatoes South Africa, a non-profit company whose primary objective is to serve as the mouthpiece of potato producers in the country, 83% of this is produced under irrigation, meaning water is applied to the soil through various systems of tubes, pumps, and sprays. The remaining 17% is irrigated by rainwater.

South Africa’s potato industry has undergone several challenges in recent years - a major one being the importation of cheap frozen potato products from other countries. The battle between the local potato industry and global importers has a longstanding history, with South Africa being considered a prime destination for dumping frozen processed potato products.

Potato SA’s head of marketing Willie Jacobs said this has harmful consequences, including further economic decline and negatively impacting the livelihoods of South African growers, workers and their families. In an article published by Food For Mzansi, he said irregular imports are detrimental to a viable local economy, hence the implementation of consistent anti-dumping measures is essential.

Because of the wide diversity in types and high consumer consumption, potatoes are a good enterprise option for many South African growers. The South African potato industry is a key employer, providing employment to an estimated 45,000 permanent and seasonal labourers.

In South Africa, it is a multi-billion Rand industry. In fact, the commodity contributes about R9.82 billion to the South African economy - about 3% of the total agriculture gross production value in 2022.

In South Africa, potatoes are produced in 16 regions across the country. They include Limpopo, Loskop Valley, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Eastern Free State, Western Free State, North West, Northern Cape, South Western Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North Eastern Cape, Southern Cape, Ceres, Sandveld, and South Western Cape.

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According to FP Coetzee, national service coordinator from Potatoes SA, Limpopo is the biggest potato-producing region in South Africa, planting about 12,000 hectares.

Last year, growers in Limpopo planted about 14,000 hectares of potatoes yielding 816,000 tonnes. Nationally, about 260 million 10kg bags of potatoes are produced which make their way into various retail shelves and informal markets across the country.

Of the top five potato-producing countries in Africa, Egypt produces 21% of Africa’s potatoes, while Algeria produces 18%, and South Africa 11%. However, the local industry shows an increase of 52 tons per hectare every year. Meanwhile, Kenya produces 7.4% of Africa’s total potato output and Morocco’s 6.8%.

Africa is also the fourth biggest potato producers in the world, producing 7.3% of the world’s total potato output.

Trade plays a crucial role in providing livelihoods for potato farmers and people employed along the food supply chain. South Africa exports potatoes to countries like Eswatini, Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Congo, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Ethiopia.

Source and photo: Food For Mzansi

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