National Potato Association: Hungarian potato will be out of the shops after January. Skyrocketing energy prices and the plummeting exchange rate of the forint have pushed up the costs significantly.
“Hungarian potato will be hard to find in the shops after January.”
Éva Kulich, the press officer of the National Potato Association, told 444.hu in a survey on the potato market published on Friday. Kulich pointed out that already in August, after the harvesting season, the shortage was evident, mainly due to the drought. In fact, this year has been very bad for potato in several European regions, wrote Telex.hu.
The spokesman estimates that we eat an average of 26 kilos of potato a year. The 144,000 tonnes of potato produced in Hungary this year, or 8 million people, can cover only two-thirds of consumption, even without public catering and restaurant needs.
Hungary has not been self-sufficient when it comes to potato for years; and the area of potato sown and the number of producers have been declining for years. The price cap on it made more difficult the situation for producers. The government imposed it at the beginning of November, and unlike other products, it applies not only to a specific variety but to all types and presentations of table potato, from baking to salad ones, from two-kilo bags to 10-kilo sacks.
According to Éva Kulich, the price cap does not help the situation; shops cannot raise their prices but growers understandably want to recover at least the rising cost of production for their product, and they also need to prepare for the next sowing season.
Moreover, fixing the price of the product at the 30 September level was not a real solution because of the inflation, as the official price only reduced the price by 8-10 percent. This may vary from store to store, as the price frozen on 9 November was different.
As is generally the case for food products, potato production is very energy consuming and uses up a lot of pesticides and fertilisers. Hungary imports the seeds from abroad, at a price of euros, of course. Then there is watering, harvesting, sorting and cleaning. 90 percent of Hungarian potato are delivered to the shops washed – done by machines, if we are talking about industrial quantities. In addition, the products have to be packed, transported and stored in special conditions.
Skyrocketing energy prices and the plummeting exchange rate of the forint have pushed up these costs significantly.
Despite the fact that the weak forint and high fuel prices would make it logical to boost domestic production, supermarkets are trying to reduce the shortfall by importing as cheaply as possible. According to Kulich, the price cap leaves supermarkets with two options: either cut quality or cut profits. And since the second option rarely plays out, that leaves lower quality foreign imports, but there may end up being a shortage of potato.