Mzansi Agriculture Talk

Agriculture

Potatoes, palpable signs of changing food supply chains

Across all National Fresh Produce Markets, potatoes perform far better than other agricultural produce per day. Spanning across South Africa’s townships, potatoes are used in a variety of recipes and food styles like quarter, burgers, bunny chow etc. 

According to Potatoes SA, about 2 million tons of potatoes are produced annually “on a total area of about 50 000 hectares.” The provision of such products is in the hands of 650 commercial farmers and about 1 000 emerging small potato growers in the country.

In 2006, Pick n Pay reported that it sold R 106 million worth of fresh potatoes. According to its 2019 Sustainability Report, all of its farms were audited by ‘independent third-parties.’

With a team of 41 food technologists conducting inspections all Pick n Pay food suppliers, traceability audits are conducted religiously.  

“Any facility or farm that fails the audit is suspended and corrective action must follow together with a re-audit before supply can recommence” Pick n Pay said in its sustainability report.

Many retailers like Pick n Pay were reportedly taking issues of sustainable farming  seriously. This reportedly was a result of the ever increasing consumer awareness on food nutrition and preference of healthy eating habits.

Food retail giants seemed linear focussed on agricultural products that can retain nutritional integrity and  free from preservatives.

McCain Foods was preparing for the after Covid-19 effects, with plans to promote good agricultural practices. The food retail giant was one of the many food retailers procuring bulk of potatoes in South Africa.

“As the world begins its road to recovery from COVID-19, we must ensure that we build a sustainable future. One where we can produce more food with less waste, address food security, and adapt to changing consumer behaviours and disruptions in the food supply chain” Max Koeune President & CEO of McCain Foods Limited.

As part of its sustainable farming plans, McCain Foods was looking to remove palm oil from its frying operations and reduce sodium by 15% in its potato and appetizer products by 2025. 

McCain Foods was already investing in 3 Farms of the Future to showcase regenerative agricultural practices by 2025.

Currently, according to estimates by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), potatoes made about “45 % of the gross value of vegetables in South Africa, and 3% of the total value of all agricultural products.”

With food retail chains demanding sustainable farming practices from farmers, it’s expected that the shift would impact the market share of the potatoes industry.  

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