Chipoca­lypse – the story be­hind the al­leged potato short­age

On Satur­day Oc­to­ber 14 An­gela Meyer vis­ited her lo­cal Pak’nSave to pur­chase gro­ceries.

NZ Grower - - PRODUCT GROUPS - By Steve Shep­pard

As she leaned for­ward to grab her favourite pack of potato crisps there was a void – and in its place a sign that read: “Due to a Na­tion­wide Potato short­age, we will be hav­ing trouble stock­ing Potato Chips. This will likely last un­til the New Year.”

She posted a pic­ture of this sign on Twit­ter, and be­cause there was no news be­cause Win­ston was still de­cid­ing which party to go with, the tweet went vi­ral. Sud­denly the phones at Pota­toes New Zealand were ring­ing with me­dia en­quir­ing about a na­tional potato short­age. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Clar­idge was bom­barded with me­dia in­ter­view re­quests.

Chris ex­plained that potato sup­plies were down, but it was the crisp­ing pota­toes that were in the great­est short­age. At this time it be­came clear that whilst most peo­ple were aware that the record rain lev­els had re­duced veg­etable crop yields, few un­der­stood the dif­fer­ence be­tween crisp­ing pota­toes and fresh (ta­ble) pota­toes.

The good news to come out of this is that it’s clear potato crisps are still New Zealand’s favourite snack and some­thing New Zealan­ders view as a part of our culi­nary cul­ture.

Once pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ence be­tween crisp­ing pota­toes and fresh pota­toes grew, peo­ple were able to re­lax in the knowl­edge they would have fresh new sea­son pota­toes to en­joy over sum­mer and with the Christ­mas din­ner.

The me­dia then started in­ves­ti­gat­ing which crisps, from which out­lets, would be most af­fected by the per­ceived potato short­age. The ma­jor­ity of crisps pro­duced in New Zealand are made from crisp­ing potato va­ri­eties, but other pro­duc­ers make their crisps from fresh potato va­ri­eties (such as Agria).

At this point of scru­tiny the ques­tions was re-asked as to whether there was a potato short­age or not. By this stage ‘Chipoca­lypse’ was trend­ing on so­cial me­dia and Pota­toes New Zealand was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing record lev­els of so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment, par­tic­u­larly through Chris Clar­idge’s Twit­ter ac­count (@Clar­idgeChris).

Me­dia enquiries were com­ing from across the ditch in Aus­tralia, then the United Kingdom (The Guardian news­pa­per and the BBC), from Amer­ica (Los An­ge­les Times) and even Slove­nia! When all was said and done Chris had com­pleted 17 me­dia in­ter­views and eight live in­ter­views.

To get a more in-depth over­view of the is­sue, please take eight min­utes out of your day to lis­ten to the in­sight­ful in­ter­view on Ra­dio Live. Just open your web browser and type in http:// bit.ly/Po­ta­toShortage and you’ll be redi­rected to the web­page with the au­dio clip of the in­ter­view.

So what does this mean to grow­ers and the wider in­dus­try? Well it’s all too easy to point the finger of blame, but no­body can con­trol the weather. While pota­toes are grown across the coun­try, the worst hit ar­eas are Horowhenua, Mata­mata and Pukekohe be­cause of a 25% in­crease in rain­fall. The pad­docks haven’t dried out so grow­ers can’t har­vest the crop or pre­pare for plant­ing.

The good news to come out of this is that it’s clear potato crisps are still New Zealand’s favourite snack and some­thing New Zealan­ders view as a part of our culi­nary cul­ture. So don’t ex­pect de­mand for crisps to dry up any­time soon.

Thank you to all the grow­ers out there, es­pe­cially those who have been rig­ging up light­ing so­lu­tions to al­low them to work through the night to get pota­toes lifted and new seed pota­toes planted.

To sup­port New Zealand grow­ers, make sure you look for the New Zealand made sign and de­tails on the pack­ets when you next pur­chase crisps.

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