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The Great British potato shortage

Money - Seeing the future

There is always an excuse for higher food prices and now it’s a shortage of potatoes. Earlier in the year farmer’s organisations said there would be a shortage because of the ‘drought’. They did their rain dances and rain came and kept on coming. After a summer of persistent and record breaking rainfall, they complain crops have  potato blight.

Many farmers are blaming allotment holders and even gardeners for spreading the disease. Is it an excuse to just put up spud prices? The price of potatoes has definitely gone up. It doesn’t seem like a potato famine, if they put them up too much, supermarkets and wholesalers will simply buy from overseas.

Potatoes are stored through the winter. Do we have enough to last until Spring? I suspect they have more than enough to last until Spring. These days farmers have a lot more chemicals to present potato blight than gardeners and many gardeners are reporting record harvest with all the rain swelling their potatoes.

So why is there a shortage? Have they perhaps stored too many for the winter? This is the problem when there is a bit of a shortage, speculators buy them up and store them. It’s the same with any commodity, it can be oil, natural gas, rare earth minerals, gold or even diamonds. When there is a slight excess of demand over supply, they buy them up, sending the price soaring.

We are seeing the price of potato products rise too. The chips in the fish and chip shops are taking a battering, in more ways than one.  People used to have a medium bag of chips for £1.20 in my local fish and chip shop. With lots of other food prices going up they are having to cut back and are now going for a small portion of chips costing a £1. They used to cost 80p, so that’s a 25% price increase. They had already gone up with the increase in value added tax to 20%. Fish and chips used to be a staple in the north of England. Now it’s seen as a luxury; a special Friday night treat, that many can no longer afford.

You can put some oven chips in the oven and that works out cheaper, but everyone is complaining they don’t taste as nice as they used to. The price of those has gone up too by around the same as the chips in the fish and chip shops. I went to look at a Tefal Actifry which might be good for cooking chips from potatoes and a frugal alternative to oven chips. I wasn’t the only one looking at the only one left; the display model. I’m thinking of having the Philips air fryer instead, it has good reviews and appears to be well made.

Are there alternatives to potatoes? Bread is the usual alternative to potatoes in the UK and I think we can expect that to go up in price and demand increases. I can’t eat bread because I’m a coeliac. People with coeliac disease can eat gluten free bread, but it doesn’t taste very good. The other staple worth considering is rice. There are lots of different kinds of rice and they are all different prices. Rice is dried and when you cook it, it absorbs water and to a lesser extent it will absorb oils and fats. It’s fairly tasteless, but if you have boiled rice and you stir fry it, it absorbs a lot of flavours and is a lot nicer. I prefer my chips, but cheap rice stir fried will absorb the flavours from the pork, onion, soy sauce and 5 spice and so that could replace your Friday night treat of fish and chips.

What do you think? Is a stir fry a good replacement for your Friday night fish and chips? Who do you blame for rising potato prices? The farmers, the speculators or the weather? Please comment, especially if you’re a farmer or own a fish and chip shop. There are more interesting articles to read on the home page.


3 responses

  1. A 400 gm Warburtons jumped from 70 to 80p in Tesco. I challenged such a hike on a small loaf. The price went back down to 70p for 2 weeks and back up to 80p this week.

    30, November 2012 at 11:40 am

    • Hi Keith,

      They will profiteer at the mere hint of a shortage. Things used to go up by a penny, but that’s more than a 10% increase and not at all unusual these days. I only buy bread at Christmas. I’ll have to check the price this week!

      Thanks for visiting and for comment. People don’t seem to like being the first to comment!

      30, November 2012 at 4:11 pm

  2. Pingback: A week of nostalgia « Mike10613's Blog

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