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DROUGHT

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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ASPARAGUS

Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus

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