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Development of the Frozen French Fry Industry in South Africa

Ngobese, Nomali Z., Workneh, Tilahun S.
American journal of potato research 2017 v.94 no.1 pp. 1-13
French fries, agroclimatology, breeding, climate change, cultivars, developing countries, economic investment, fertilizers, food processing, genetic variation, industry, irrigation, land use, potatoes, weather, South Africa
Potato processing is becoming particularly popular in developing countries and French fries are the main product being developed. This paper describes the South African frozen French fry industry, identifying aspects for improvements for further growth. Although South Africa produces over two million tonnes of potatoes per year, only 17 to 20% are processed, mainly as frozen French fries. While this is a larger production achievement than in the past, trends in consumption show that the frozen French fry industry has potential for further growth. Industry expansion is limited by the shortage of suitable raw potato stock linked to cultivar and potato production capacity constraints for frozen French fry processing. The country relies mainly on two processing cultivars produced in localized areas, for which yields are also threatened by unpredictably detrimental weather conditions. Produce shortages often lead to subsequent importation of products from other countries. The lack of cultivar-specific information on the amount of land used, production tonnages and yield achievements restricts diagnosis of specific factors contributing to this shortage. Based on the overall crop performance, a region-based approach is suggested to improve yield achievements of the few cultivars used for frozen French fry processing in the country. This could be achieved by optimizing natural resource management, particularly irrigation, fertilizer and land use, in the four agro-climatic regions contributing to the processing industry. Furthermore, the number of French fry processing cultivars can be increased by increasing financial investment on local breeding efforts to develop new cultivars and by focusing foreign cultivar adoption on processing needs to increase the genetic diversity and safeguard against the effects of climate change.