Saturday, December 3, 2011

The economic consequences of the potato

Widely reported this week by our diligent mejia was the existence of a potato glut. Potatoes are dirt cheap, even when scrubbed! The Cairns Post has, of course, framed this in a provincial local context which is not worthwhile even linking. The ABC Far North rural reports:

Charlie McKillop
Potato prices have slumped to new lows in recent weeks amid claims a glut of spuds from Far North Queensland is causing an oversupply.
Potato grower and representative on AUSVEG, David Nix says the current crop is the largest in the history of potato growing on the Atherton Tableland.
He says potato production has spiked right across the country and has affected returns all growers.
The problem started in South Australia where the bulk of potatoes come from, he says.
"They started this slide by putting very, very cheap washed potatoes into Melbourne and then it reached into Sydney, then it came into Brisbane and they were selling them for not much more than the freight it cost to get them there," he says.
"Prices have just tumbled every week 'til it's down to a point where it's no point going any cheaper, you might as well just plough them in. And there are thousands of tons here, we've got a wave of potatoes in front of us that's not going to disappear," he says.
"There'll still be potatoes here and there'll be growers with them in cold rooms, paddock stored potatoes, I can't see this glut disappearing this side of January."
KS Global Economics notes the reference to South Australia in context of current controversy on Murray Darliing water allocations but without a constructive clue as to relevance. Meanwhile, the finger pointing continues elsewhere in ABC reports:
 
An oversupply of potatoes in the northern states is driving down prices.
Peak industry body AusVeg expects the oversupply could last into the new year, and says it's a great opportunity for consumers to buy potatoes at a low price.
Les Horsfield has been growing and selling potatoes at Thorpdale in Victoria for more than 45 years.
He says there are too many potatoes coming out of Queensland, and that'll drive down demand for Victorian brush potatoes when they begin harvest next month.
"Potato price is exceptionally low. In fact I'd say it's nearly the worst I've ever seen it," he said.
"The potatoes are coming out of North Queensland and the freight price of course is significant - it's just under $200 a tonne from Atherton to Melbourne.
"And the demand is the worst it's ever been, so of course the price is the worst it's ever been."

KS Global Economics simply asks why so many potatoes were planted in the first place? Nobody seems to have asked this question? It is noted that there is in fact a potato levy included in the Federal budget papers.

The potato has much to answer for in history. The Irish potato famine decimated the population of Ireland but also provided a flood of migrants to destinations such as Australia.

What is astounding is the extent of change driven by such as the European expansion into South America. The tomato, potato, and venereal diseases were all transmitted back via the colonisation of South America in the 16th century.

Even what we now regard as traditional, such as the Italian tomato cuisine, is comparatively recent in our culture. A more epicurial aspect on the potato glut has been posted at Kitchenslut.





 

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