Canary Islands advocates for British potato imports from pest-free areas

Some are warning that a "perfect storm" is brewing, which could make this the last potato harvest in the Canary Islands due to a lack of seed for future planting.

In the initial harvest season and farmers’ markets, potatoes are nowhere to be found. One vendor at the San Isidro market suggests a lone farmer might still have some stock. Meanwhile, in Las Chafiras, San Miguel de Abona, the potato shortage is severe, with local produce entirely absent. Imported potatoes from Israel and Egypt, which usually cushion such shortfalls, are running out. At the same time, UK-sourced produce hasn’t yet been able to reach the Canary Islands. The only forthcoming local supply is from Vilaflor and won’t hit the market until late autumn or early winter.

What’s the interim situation? Supermarkets are pricing available potatoes at five euros per kilogram. The hospitality industry has ingeniously turned to alternatives; for instance, traditional Spanish tortillas are off the menu in places like Arona and Adeje. Instead, diners find dishes like menestra and frozen chips replacing ensaladilla rusa and fresh potatoes.

Roberto Rodríguez, Secretary of the San Isidro Market Board, warns that the shortage may persist. He identifies one of the core issues as the Canary Islands’ minimal self-sufficiency in potato production.

The situation worsens in northern Tenerife due to a Guatemalan moth infestation, while the British supply has been hampered by the red beetle. Angela Delgado, President of the local agricultural organisation Asaga, calls the current predicament ‘a perfect storm’.

Canary Islands advocates for British potato imports from pest-free areas.

Delgado and other industry stakeholders are urging the Spanish Government and the European Union to permit produce from other parts of the UK, besides England, due to the ongoing crisis. Their argument also extends to the future of potato farming in the region.

Ángela Delgado, whose company is a leading potato supplier, says her produce sells out within hours due to competitive pricing. She also emphasises that this crisis should serve as a lesson, highlighting the importance of local production in market regulation.

Dionisio Rocha, President of the Las Galletas Irrigation Community, concurs that import restrictions and insect infestations create a twofold challenge that needs addressing. Both Delgado and Roberto Rodríguez stress that the Canary Islands are overly reliant on imports.

In summary, the prevailing crisis serves as a harsh lesson on the necessity of local production for market regulation. Delgado argues that a fairer price point for farmers will ensure the sustainability of potato cultivation in the Canary Islands.

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