Drought causes potato prices to rise by more than half – and they have more flaws

After massive crop losses due to the drought that plagued Germany this year, potato prices for consumers have risen by more than half – and they have more blemishes.

Drought causes potato prices to rise by more than half - and they have more flaws
Photo: DPA

But experts said consumers do not have to fear empty shelves, and that the flaws in Kartoffeln – a staple in the German diet – are purely cosmetic and do not impact the quality of the food.

Currently, customers in supermarkets have to pay around 84 cents per kg for potatoes in small packages, whereas the price per kg a year ago was 55 cents.

Christoph Hambloch, analyst at the Agricultural Market Information Service (AMI) in Bonn, reported the latest cost increase on Monday, and warned there could be further price hikes in spring.

Consumers should also be prepared for more potatoes that are not completely perfect in appearance. During years with better harvests, products with 'beauty blemishes' wouldn’t be sent to supermarkets to be sold.

But in view of the current shortage, there are currently more potatoes with dark spots and other blemishes finding their way onto shop shelves. Hambloch explained, however, that these are purely optical defects which have no influence on how the food tastes.

As we reported earlier this year, supermarkets, including Rewe and its sister shop Penny, agreed to buy more produce with 'beauty errors' due to the problems faced by the agriculture industry this year.

However despite there being around 3 million tons fewer potatoes in the harvest this year compared to last year, there won’t be a shortage, according to experts.

It just means that there will be reduced potato exports and increased imports, especially in the first part of next year.

Potato farmers who have reaped a significant harvest despite the drought could benefit from selling to supermarket vendors at significantly higher prices. Producer prices for selling potatoes have more than doubled from €10 per 100 kg to €25 to €26

Problems could arise with farmers who had already marketed their harvest in advance at fixed prices, Hambloch said. The situation may also affect others in the food industry, such as peeling companies, particularly in eastern Germany.

The German association of fruit, vegetable and potato processing industry (BOGK) also raised concerns over the harvest, saying it reached a historical low of 8.7 million tons. They added that 2020's crop will be affected in a negative way because the seed potatoes, especially for the early crop potatoes, will not be sufficiently available.

SEE ALSO: Farmers to get €170 million in state aid after drought ruins harvest

The dry spring and summer has caused huge problems for Germany, resulting in farmers’ crops being damaged and extremely low water levels.

In August Germany's Agriculture Ministry agreed to compensate farmers whose businesses were threatened by one of the worst droughts in years.

Meanwhile, months of drought left water levels on Germany's Rhine river at a record low, exposing a World War II bomb and forcing ship operators to halt services to prevent vessels from running aground.

SEE ALSO: 'We need intense rainfall' – drought cripples crucial German waterways

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Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

More than six billion baguettes are baked each year in France and UNESCO has now inscribed the tradition in its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

The French baguette – one of the country’s most abiding images – was given world heritage status by UNESCO on Wednesday, the organisation announced.

READ ALSO French baguette gets UNESCO world heritage status

Here are some of the more popular theories:

Napoleon’s Bread of War
The oldest tale has the baguette being kneaded by bakers in Napoleon’s army. Less bulky than a traditional loaf, the long slim shape of the baguette made it faster to bake in brick ovens hastily erected on the battlefield.

France’s most famous man of war was preoccupied with getting his men their daily bread.

During his Russian campaign in 1812, he toured the ovens daily to sample the day’s offering and ensure the crusty batons were being distributed regularly, according to historian Philippe de Segur.

He also had portable bread mills sent to occupied Moscow, but the setbacks suffered by the Grande Armee in one of the deadliest military campaigns in history ended his bid to export the doughy staple.

Viennese connection
Another theory has the baguette starting out in a Viennese bakery in central Paris in the late 1830s.

Artillery officer and entrepreneur August Zang brought Austria’s culinary savoir-faire to Paris in the form of the oval-shaped bread that were standard in his country at the time.

According to the Compagnonnage des boulangers et des patissiers, the French bakers’ network, Zang decided to make the loaves longer to make them easier for the city’s breadwomen to pluck from the big carts they pushed through the city’s streets.

Breaking bread
Another theory has the baguette being born at the same time as the metro for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

People from across France came to work on the underground and fights would often break out on site between labourers armed with knives, which they used to slice big round loaves of bread for lunch.

According to the history site, to avoid bloodshed, one engineer had the idea of ordering longer loaves that could be broken by hand.

Early rising
In 1919, a new law aimed to improve the lives of bakers by banning them from working from 10 pm to 4 am.

The reform gave them less time to prepare the traditional sourdough loaf for the morning, marked the widespread transition to what was called at the
time the yeast-based “flute”, which rose faster and was out of the oven in under half an hour.

Standardised at 80 centimeters (30 inches) and 250 grams (eight ounces) with a fixed price until 1986, the baguette was initially the mainstay of wealthy metropolitans, but after World War II became the emblem of all French people.