Farmers can’t sell their spuds
Elizabeth Prado and Ghiovani Hinojosa
Peru is having a “potato crisis,” said Elizabeth Prado and Ghiovani Hinojosa. Thanks to a bumper harvest, the price of potatoes has plummeted well below the cost of production, and farmers who can’t sell their crops are rioting. Farmers blocked roads across the country last week and clashed with police, setting fires. At least two people were killed. The farmers are demanding that the government declare a national state of emergency and allot money to buy all the surplus potatoes “at a fair price,” and it looks like their demands will be met. But even if those measures resolve this year’s crisis, the underlying problem remains. “It is a crisis generated by the government itself, because of its lack of agrarian planning,” says Edwin Miranda, a farmers’ rights advocate. Potatoes were first domesticated in Peru, and more than 700,000 families here depend on potato farming for their livelihood. Yet the country lacks any industrial potato-processing capability—there’s no central facility where the vegetables can be “peeled, cut, and bagged for sale to restaurants.” That means that even though the potato is a national staple, Peruvian businesses still import processed potato products like frozen french fries from foreign countries. The farmers now want tariffs—and who can blame them?