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Potato Shortage In NZ Impacts Fijian Supply

The effects of major shortage of potatoes in New Zealand have trickled down to Fiji as major supermarkets around the country have started running out of stock. Three big supermarkets
02 Dec 2014 09:39
Potato Shortage In NZ Impacts Fijian Supply

The effects of major shortage of potatoes in New Zealand have trickled down to Fiji as major supermarkets around the country have started running out of stock.

Three big supermarkets contacted yesterday confirmed the shortage attributing wet weather conditions in New Zealand as the reason potatoes could not be harvested.

Even a local potato chips manufacturer, FMF Foods Limited which makes “Thumbs Up” potato chips, said the shortage was affecting their production.

Situation in NZ
Reports in New Zealand highlight demand is up and supply is down thanks to poor growing and harvesting conditions.

3 News quoted Potatoes New Zealand chief executive, Champak Mehta, saying: “The potatoes we were going to harvest from the early season are not available and the new season’s not online yet, so there is a gap.”
Growers are being forced to choose whom they sell limited stock to.

The main export market for Potatoes New Zealand is Fiji.

Mr Mehta said confirmed they were not able to send the amount of potatoes Fiji needed because growers were getting a better price from the fresh market in New Zealand.

The situation is big enough that it has forced chip producers, Eta and Bluebird, to temporarily stop production in the countdown to Christmas.
3 News understands both factories were closed for up to a week.

It said Eta had stated in a statement there will be brief closures when the factory is in short supply and there’ll be fewer supermarket specials.
3 News said just how long the potato shortage lasts depends on the weather, but growers say it may not improve for six months.

Local supermarkets
One of the biggest supermarket chains in Fiji, MH, confirming the shortage said they are trying their best to get potatoes in another few days.

Carpenters Fiji director retail and marketing, Kunaseelan Sabaratnam, said: “We don’t have any indications as to how long it will go on for.
“But we understand it is because of the old and new season and because of the harsh weather conditions in New Zealand.
“We are facing this after a long time and the vendors and growers are trying their level best.”

Mr Sabaratnam, however, confirmed they might have a shipment coming through today.
Meanwhile, RB Patel director Surendra Patel, shared similar views about the shortage but he said there are potatoes, but it is not enough.

“It’s just it is raining in Auckland and so they can’t dig out the potato and they missed a couple of boats,” he said.
“The problem is if there is too much mud on the potato, the quarantine officers will not allow it in the country.”

Mr Patel said they are hoping the shortage should be over within two weeks.
NewWorld Supermarket chief executive, Anil Patel, also confirmed the shortage.

 

FMF Foods Group CEO Ram Bajekal interview:

Is the shortage of potatoes having any impact on the company?

Definitely – we have not been able to get potatoes at all and we are struggling. The new season potatoes have not come in at all as it has been a very wet time in New Zealand. We import on our own..

What sort of impact is it having in terms of production?

We are going through a lot of uncertainty and we do not know whether we will have enough for next lot of products. But it is very unfortunate as we are going into Christmas period and the consumption is very large and this is the time when we really need potatoes.

Aren’t there any alternatives?

There are no alternatives. Australia is one option but the crisping potatoes are very difficult to get. Locally they are not growing the crisping varieties of potatoes.

We still continue to produce the dalo and cassava chips and we are hoping that a lot more people switch to dalo and cassava which is also good for our local farmers.

Any indications when the supply will normalise?

I think it will be in the new season which is going to be in January.

 
Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

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