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Why are potato prices soaring in France and how long will it last?

The price of a pack of potatoes has increased on average by around 23% in a year. Frozen chips are up 25% 

Pile of raw potatoes lying on wooden boards

The price of potatoes is soaring in France after an ‘historically bad’ harvest and rising costs Pic: Dmitriy Gutkovskiy / Shutterstock

A threat to chips, crisps, and Dauphinoise? Potato prices are soaring in France due to what is being  termed “the worst harvest in 30 years”.

The price of a pack of potatoes has increased by an average of 39 cents per kilo, from €1.70 to €2.09 - around 23% - between September 2022 and September 2023, Insee (national statistics bureau) figures show. Frozen chips and other potato products have risen by 25% in the same time.

Purees have risen by 20%, and crisps by 18%.

The increases have been blamed on a rise in production costs and energy prices, which have had a knock-on effect on expenses for tractors, gas, electricity, and farming supplies.

Costs have risen for farmers and producers as well as for food manufacturers and distributors. 

Geoffroy d'Evry, a potato farmer in Oise and president of the potato producer’s union, l’Union nationale des producteurs de pommes de terre (UNPT), said that the previous harvest was simply “the worst of the last 30 years”, and that “historically-low national production” had pushed demand up, sending costs even higher. “It’s the law of supply and demand,” he said.

Higher wages and continued high prices

Farmers have also been paid higher wages - on average 13% more in 2021 and 36% more in 2022, reports France Bleu - in a bid to encourage them to continue growing potatoes rather than switch to more lucrative crops such as wheat.

“This was necessary to allow farmers to continue growing potatoes, otherwise they would have stopped,” said Mr d’Evry. “From a risk perspective, these last few years have been more and more difficult.” 

The price is not set to reduce any time soon; this year’s crop was planted later than ideal due to flooding - which will cause harvest delays - and climate change is also set to require the industry to make large-scale investments in new production methods.

“There is no reason for potatoes to go down [in price] in the future,” said Mr d’Evry.

Family food

However demand in France remains high, with real-life price rises appearing (so far) not to have reduced sales.

Mr d’Evry said: “Even with one kilo of potatoes costing €2, with one kilo, you can feed a family of four, so it is still one of the lowest-cost ingredients and foods on the market.”

France produces 3.7 million tonnes of potatoes for domestic consumption every year, and exports 3.2 million tonnes, figures from the Comité National Interprofessionnel de la Pomme de Terre (CNIPT) show.

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