The chips are down: Load shedding sparks shortage of fries in SA

21 Apr 2023

16 April 2023
by Carin Smith

Load shedding is impacting the manufacturing of frozen French fries in SA, causing a shortage at some retailers and restaurants, McCain is one of the largest producers of frozen French fries in South Africa. The company indicated to News24 this week that, due to load shedding, it cannot process frozen French fries at the usual capacity. It is aware of shortages at some retail stores, it also has to supply large fast-food chains. According to Willie Jacobs, CEO of Potatoes SA, however, there is currently no shortage in volumes of frozen French fries offered to consumers. "McCain indicated that it experienced some pressure due to potato tuber moth damage, but not due to a shortage in volumes," says Jacobs. "There are enough potatoes to meet local demand as SA had normal yields during this production season."

Fred Hume, managing director of Hume International, a major importer of frozen food to South Africa, claims the SA market is facing a shortage of French fries - and the reasons include a local shortage of optimal varieties for producing the fries, and load shedding. "We have reliably been informed that at least one major local producer is working 'short time'. Prices are now around three times higher than pre-Covid-19," says Hume.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA) and Potatoes SA recently signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to grow the potato industry and increase employment opportunities. Jacobs says the potato industry is estimated to contribute at least R6.6 billion to South Africa's economy and contributes 30% to 50% of the fresh produce turnover in the country.

In July last year, concerns were raised about higher prices and even shortages after the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) imposed provisional anti-dumping duties of up to 181% on frozen French fries imported from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. The provisional duties were meant to protect the local industry. These duties have since lapsed. Pending the outcome of the investigation, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition Ebrahim Patel may still decide to impose definitive anti-dumping duties. News24 reached out to the dtic, and if a response is received, this article will be updated.