Prices for Irish potatoes in Malawi have soared by over 100 percent forcing many small-scale traders frying chips along the country’s main roads to abandon their businesses.
In a random survey in Lilongwe on Tuesday, many traders who depend on Irish potatoes say the commodity is expensive; hence, their decision to quit the business for now.
At Lizulu Market where the commodity is found in abundance, only a few bags could be seen and the prices were very high.
One of the traders, Kenneth Wemba, said this time of the year Irish potatoes are scarce to the extent that many traders engage in other commodities or quit the business altogether.
“We order most of our potatoes from Ntcheu and during peak season, we buy a 180 kilogramme bag at about K30 000, but now the price is at over K60 000. A five-litre pail of potatoes was selling at K500, but now it is at almost K1 500 which is too expensive for those who fry chips along the roads,” said Wemba.
A popular chips seller at Biwi, James Kamolosa, said with the rise in prices of Irish potatoes, only those established in the business are frying some chips.
“We have scaled down our production. The prices of Irish potatoes have gone up and we only fry chips in the morning or in the afternoon. If you buy a five-litre pail at K1 500, fire wood, cooking oil, salt as well as pepper then you discover that you are operating at a loss.
“Some of our friends are frying cassava because of the same problem of pricing,” said Kamolosa.
Southern African Confederation of Agriculture Union project coordinator Mathews Nkosi said the scarcity of Irish potato is common at the onset of the rainy season because it is planting time.
“It is true the price of Irish potatoes have gone up mainly because this is planting season and the potatoes that are available are not fully matured, but because of demand farmers are forced to sell what they have,” he said.
Nkosi said he had to pay K2 000 for a five-litre pail of potatoes instead of the usual K500.