Chipoca­lypse

Niki Bez­zant dis­cusses how the re­cent ‘Chipoca­lypse’ high­lighted the im­por­tance of food se­cu­rity…

NZ Grower - - CONTENTS -

Curse of the al­leged potato short­age

I’m writ­ing this in the wake of the most potato cov­er­age we’ve seen in the me­dia in years.

It’s all be­cause of a pend­ing cri­sis in potato chip sup­ply, we are told. “The big­gest cri­sis since the Mar­mite cri­sis” said RNZ. “Chipoca­lypse” quipped the NZ Her­ald. The twit­ter­sphere was abuzz with panic and hi­lar­ity. Pota­toes NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Clar­idge was in high me­dia de­mand, ap­pear­ing on mul­ti­ple ra­dio and TV shows, ex­plain­ing that the bad weather had meant plant­ing and har­vest­ing prob­lems, lead­ing to a po­ten­tial short­age of crisp­ing pota­toes.

It was a flurry of ac­tiv­ity for sev­eral days. At the week­end: cri­sis; pend­ing potato chip sell-outs. On Mon­day, Stuff re­ported there was no cri­sis: the prob­lem was just an or­der­ing is­sue at Pak’nSave. Both su­per­mar­ket chains talked down the prospect of a chip short­age, say­ing they’d be able to man­age sup­ply. By Fri­day, things seemed calm again for chip lovers. Yes, there were prob­lems with the sup­ply of pota­toes, but these would prob­a­bly not af­fect our sum­mer dip and chip cel­e­bra­tions.

I am re­lieved. As a chip lover, I briefly considered stock­pil­ing ear­lier in the week. I never got around to it, maybe sub­con­sciously driven by worry about how I would be­have know­ing there were mul­ti­ple packs of chips in my cup­board. I’m good at prac­tis­ing mod­er­a­tion, ex­cept when it comes to cer­tain savoury, crunchy snacks.

I’m clearly not alone. Stuff re­ported that New Zealan­ders spent $157 mil­lion on potato chips in 2015 – over $30 per per­son.

This cov­er­age does high­light a broader is­sue, which Chris Clar­idge did bring up, but got very lit­tle play. It’s the is­sue of food se­cu­rity: the idea that we all have ac­cess to a se­cure, reg­u­lar sup­ply of nu­tri­tious food. “The se­ri­ous is­sue here is that Ki­wis take food se­cu­rity as a given, and I think it's a lux­ury that we can't guar­an­tee”, he said. “Land avail­abil­ity and cli­mate change are im­pact­ing this sta­ple com­mod­ity."

Food se­cu­rity is the fo­cus of World Food Day spon­sored by the Food & Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO), which iron­i­cally was cel­e­brated on Mon­day, in the midst of the chipoca­lypse panic. The FAO is very fo­cussed on cli­mate change, which it says is one of the ma­jor is­sues we need to tackle glob­ally if we are to achieve their goal of zero hunger by 2030.

All the more rea­son then, to value our sta­ple foods – es­pe­cially veg­eta­bles – more highly. As the song says “we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone”, and that is cer­tainly true when it comes to our favourite veg. If we as con­sumers keep join­ing the dots be­tween what’s go­ing on with cli­mate is­sues and how well or poorly our food grows, it’s no bad thing.

Per­haps we need to get our heads around the idea that we can’t take for granted any more that we’ll al­ways have ac­cess to pota­toes? Per­haps that, along with more fo­cus on sea­son­al­ity and spe­cial­ness, will mean peo­ple are pre­pared to pay a lit­tle more for their qual­ity spuds?

I sus­pect grow­ers would not be up­set at that de­vel­op­ment.

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