Mark du Plessis
Potatoes are produced in 16 different geographic areas of South Africa (Fig. 1), with a wide range of soils and climatic  conditions. This  ensures a constant supply of fresh potatoes throughout the year.    Figure 1: Potato producing areas in South Africa. Oval sizes represent the relative area of each potato producing region  About 2 million tons of potatoes are produced annually on a total area of about 50 000 hectares (Fig. 2).  Since the   early  1990's the area under potato production has gradually declined, while the average yields have steadily increased to the  current average of more than 40 t/ha.   Figure 2: Total area of potatoes planted (ha) between 1990 and 2010 and total production (million 10kg bags) achieved  over the same period. Some of the reasons for the increases in average yields include:   the use of higher yielding cultivars   larger proportion of production under irrigation  better seed quality  better production practices  Potatoes are mainly produced under full irrigation, although successful dry land production still occurs in some regions, such    as the Eastern Free State. Over the past two decades the area under dry land potato production has gradually declined from   about 50% of the total area in the late 1980's to its current level of less than 15% (Fig. 3).  Figure 3: Total area of potatoes annually planted (ha) under dry land and irrigation for the period 1987 to 2011.  South Africa ranks 28th in the world in terms of total potato production (tons per country) and contributes about 0.3 % to the   global potato production. In terms of the African continent, our area under production is only 3.5 % of the total area, but South   Africa contributes 11 % of the total potato production.    Potatoes make out about 45 % of the gross value of vegetables in  South Africa, and 3% of the total value of all agricultural   products. There are a total of about 650 active commercial and 1  000 emerging small potato growers in the country. For more information on the South African potato industry, visit the section on Industry Info on the Potatoes South Africa web  site.
The South African Potato Industry