German potato prices set to spike due to drought

Two summers in a row of drought are causing Germany’s potato supply to dwindle - and prices to rise. (Courtesy: DPA)

Farmers throughout Germany, and especially in the country’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, are desperately hoping for rain in August.

Horst-Peter Karos, the head of the Association of Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Preparation (BOGK), regarding the country’s staple crop:

“If it continues to stay hot and dry, the problem will become very big.”
He added that potato prices in North Rhine-Westphalia have already risen by around a third compared with the previous year.

Germany is in the midst of its harvest season, which stretches from March through October each year.

Historically low yield

Last year, Germany’s harvest was already historically low, with 8.7 million tonnes of potatoes - the smallest yield in 28 years.

The impact trickled down to consumers. In November 2018, supermarket shoppers had to pay around 84 cents per kg for potatoes in small packages, whereas the price per kg the year before was 55 cents.

The exact average prices of potatoes Germany-wide are not yet known and dependent on what the harvest in the final stretch of summer brings.

A potato after a harvest in Duisburg, North-Rhine Westphalia. (Courtesy: DPA)

Currently, the groundwater level had fallen significantly due to two summers’ worth of droughts.

The heatwaves of recent weeks in July and August has only made the conditions worse, according to Karos, especially since potatoes cannot grow at extreme temperatures.

Relief on the horizon?

The impact will also be felt by the processing industry this fall, said Karos, as products such crisps and chips could become more expensive.

Last year, a few local establishments with potato products raised their prices to reflect the increase.

For the upcoming weekend, however, stormy weather could bring relief to farmers. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Saturday and Sunday will see stormy weather, with 15 to 25 liters of rain per square metre expected to fall.

Hail and strong gusts of wind up to 70 km per area are also expected in the area.