Potatoes South Africa has asked the government to intervene and take action over the influx of frozen French fries into the country, which it says threatens the survival of the domestic potato processing industry.
“We are still awaiting the feedback from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, and Department of Trade and Industry for urgent intervention in creating a sustainable environment for the potato processing industry,” said Etienne Booyens, spokesperson for PSA, which represents local potato farmers.
Booysens says the industry was facing a tough time, due to imports of European processed potatoes.
The volume of frozen French fry imports surged from a level of 15,460 tons in 2009, peaking during 2010 at 46,903 tons, and then levelling at 30,054 tons last year.
The usage of locally produced potatoes for manufacturing processed potato products is estimated at 435,000 tons, of which 58% is used for producing French fries. Of the 650 commercial potato producers in SA, more than 100 produce potatoes under contract for the processing industry.
Booysens said that the industry was a good provider of employment and as many as 11,400 workers could lost their jobs if something was not done.