Every visitor to the Canary Islands gets to know them papas arrugadaspotatoes cooked in salt water (in the original even in sea water) with a salt crust and wrinkled skin, which gives them their name: wrinkled means in Spanish arrugada. They are one of the classic dishes of the Canary Islands, whether as a side dish or main course with the equally typical sauces mojosoptionally in red or green.
And because the Canary Islands are part of Spain, potatoes are also available in many other forms, from tortilla Española to plain fries. 3000 tons of potatoes are eaten in the Canary Islands – every week.
But this year there was a veritable potato crisis. At the beginning of September, prices rose many times over, supermarkets rationed sales, restaurants offered them daddy partly no longer available, and a black market even emerged. On social media, someone angrily posted a receipt – 9.98 euros for two kilos of potatoes – and called for street protests.
What happened? Two things. Initially, the record drought in the spring destroyed large parts of the Canary Islands harvest. And then the Colorado potato beetle was spotted in the English county of Kent. Kent? Although this is almost 3,000 kilometers away from the Canary Islands, England is actually the most important supplier of potatoes to the Canary Islands: domestic production cannot even cover half of the demand, the rest has to be imported – but not from anywhere. According to a regulation that has existed since 1987, potatoes, as well as other vegetables and fruit, may not be imported from countries where pests occur.
The number of safe countries of origin has shrunk since 1987, which is why the Canary Islands recently covered almost 90 percent of their potato imports with goods from England. Until the Colorado potato beetle was spotted in Kent. The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture stopped imports from England. From August onwards there was a shortage of potatoes in the Canary Islands. In September, prices rose almost fourfold and fresh produce was hardly available anymore.
Imports are monitored
But now the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture has untied the knot: potatoes can be imported from England again, but not from Kent and only with strict conditions: tubers intended for sowing must be packed in transparent 25-kilogram bags. Edibles may arrive in 1.5 ton containers, but must be meticulously labeled. The island inspectors want to monitor imports from England completely.
The caution is based on bad experience: a few years ago, the potato’s second major enemy appeared, probably coming from South America: a species of moth whose caterpillar feels comfortable inside the tubers and leaves ugly brown spots behind. The pest destroys dozens of tons every year. The Colorado potato beetle should soon too Leptinotarsa decemlineata to be spotted somewhere between El Hierro and Lanzarote is the next daddy-Crisis programmed. The authorities’ strict rules stipulate that crops must be destroyed on a large scale as soon as a pest appears.