The price of pota­toes

In her lat­est blog, ex­clu­sively for Pota­toes New Zealand, lead­ing food­writer Niki Bez­zant dis­cusses the ris­ing food prices…


You may have seen the re­cent ker­fuf­fle about the price of but­ter. Our favourite fat, it seems, is at a record high price – $5.39 for a 500g block, up sig­nif­i­cantly from pre­vi­ous years.

This was part of Statis­tics New Zealand’s Food Price In­dex, which tracks the price of food from month to month. The in­for­ma­tion they re­lease rou­tinely gen­er­ates slightly hys­ter­i­cal me­dia cov­er­age, usu­ally with a tone of “food prices reach out­ra­geous lev­els”, of­ten with a side im­pli­ca­tion that healthy food – mostly fruit and veg­eta­bles – is be­com­ing too ex­pen­sive for av­er­age ki­wis to af­ford.

The re­cent re­lease was no dif­fer­ent. But­ter got all the at­ten­tion, but pota­toes were also high­lighted. The price for a kilo­gram of pota­toes was $2.12 in Au­gust 2017, com­pared with $1.94 in July 2017, and $1.63 in Au­gust 2016. This was put down to poor weather dur­ing the year. Statis­tics NZ’s Matthew Haigh said “the ex­cep­tion­ally wet weather over the past year has had an im­pact on grow­ing tu­ber veg­eta­bles such as pota­toes and ku­mara… the crop losses and ex­tra man­ual work re­quired for har­vest­ing has trans­lated into higher prices on su­per­mar­ket shelves.”

It’s good to see the dots be­ing joined be­tween the de­mands of grow­ing some­thing and the price of that thing. It doesn’t al­ways hap­pen; the Food Price In­dex re­leases are of­ten cov­ered in news­pa­pers and on­line in a way that ap­pears com­pletely ig­no­rant of sea­son­al­ity. Of course toma­toes are more ex­pen­sive in Au­gust than they are in Jan­uary; it takes a lot more re­sources to grow them when they’re nat­u­rally out of sea­son. That – and the fact that they taste pretty av­er­age in win­ter – is why I don’t buy toma­toes for sev­eral months when it’s cold.

It seems many peo­ple don’t ac­tu­ally un­der­stand – or care – about sea­son­al­ity though. Toma­toes topped the pops again (just) over pota­toes as the most pur­chased veg­etable in New Zealand last year. We’re blithely buy­ing them all year round de­spite how they taste and how much they cost.

Pota­toes are a bit dif­fer­ent. I, along with most ki­wis clearly, buy spuds all year round. It rarely oc­curs to me that there are sea­sons for them. But of course there are. And it is worth cel­e­brat­ing them. It’s re­ally good to hear Pota­toes NZ plans on pro­mot­ing the new potato this year. I think in foodie cir­cles, new pota­toes are a ‘thing’. The Jer­sey Benne even gets a shout out on menus. But out­side of that, there’s prob­a­bly a job to be done to ed­u­cate peo­ple and get them ex­cited about pota­toes as sea­sonal treats. Look how ex­cited we all get about fei­joas or as­para­gus. Wouldn’t it be great if peo­ple got that en­thused about spuds?

It seems to me there’s ed­u­ca­tion to be done on sea­sonal changes in pota­toes too; the way the same spud can have dif­fer­ent tex­tures and cook­ing prop­er­ties as time goes on. This feeds into the whole waxy/floury/all-pur­pose dis­cus­sion, which clearly needs to be on­go­ing.

They may be one of our favourite veges, but Ki­wis still have much to learn about pota­toes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.