Industry association Potatoes South Africa (PSA) has highlighted the imminent threat looming for the local potatoes industry, considering the recent lapse of antidumping duty protection.
South Africa has long been considered a prime destination for dumping below-cost frozen processed potato products, particularly from the Netherlands and Belgium, states PSA.
CEO Willie Jacobs has called for the collective efforts of consumers, businesses and government to support local growers and producers.
Not only will buying local help protect South African revenues and sustain jobs, but it is also linked to natural ecosystem protection.
South African potato producers have already been experiencing challenges brought on by Covid-19, a cost-price squeeze, rising input costs and, most recently, the civil unrest in parts of the country. This while producers do not benefit from financial support from government and struggle to compete with below-cost products being dumped in the country.
The local potato industry employs about 45 000 permanent and seasonal labourers and is worth R7.5-billion at primary level and R26-billion at secondary level. On average, the industry plants around 50 000 ha of potatoes, with this crop accounting for 45% of the total vegetable crops produced in South Africa.
For example, frozen foods producer McCain Foods South Africa supports more than 6 800 full-time jobs and procures potatoes from more than 100 local farmers – who plant more than 4 500 ha of potatoes every year.
McCain MD Unathi Mhlatyana says the negative financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and other prevailing socioeconomic and market conditions on local farmers and producers has been catastrophic.
“Further threats in terms of both demand and cost, may force local growers and processors out of business. Supporting the local agricultural sector is the most powerful and promising measure to combat the effects of agricultural dumping, which directly threatens our economy and livelihoods.”