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DROUGHT

German potato prices set to spike due to drought

Two summers in a row of drought are causing Germany’s potato supply to dwindle - and prices to rise.

German potato prices set to spike due to drought
A potato in a harvested field in Duisburg on August 1st. Photo: DPA

Farmers throughout Germany, and especially in the country’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, are desperately hoping for rain in August.

“If it continues to stay hot and dry, the problem will become very big,” said Horst-Peter Karos, the head of the Association of Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Preparation (BOGK) regarding the country’s staple crop.  

He added that potato prices in North Rhine-Westphalia have already risen by around a third compared with the previous year.

Germany is in the midst of its harvest season, which stretches from March through October each year. 

Historically low yield

Last year, Germany’s harvest was already historically low, with 8.7 million tonnes of potatoes – the smallest yield in 28 years. 

The impact trickled down to consumers. In November 2018, supermarket shoppers had to pay around 84 cents per kg for potatoes in small packages, whereas the price per kg the year before was 55 cents.

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

The exact average prices of potatoes Germany-wide are not yet known and dependent on what the harvest in the final stretch of summer brings.

A potato after a harvest in Duisburg, North-Rhine Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Currently, the groundwater level had fallen significantly due to two summers’ worth of droughts.

The heatwaves of recent weeks in July and August has only made the conditions worse, according to Karos, especially since potatoes cannot grow at extreme temperatures.

Relief on the horizon?

The impact will also be felt by the processing industry this fall, said Karos, as products such crisps and chips could become more expensive.

Last year, a few local establishments with potato products raised their prices to reflect the increase. 

For the upcoming weekend, however, stormy weather could bring relief to farmers. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Saturday and Sunday will see stormy weather, with 15 to 25 liters of rain per square metre expected to fall. 

Hail and strong gusts of wind up to 70 km per area are also expected in the area.  

Vocabulary

Potato – (die) Kartoffel; (der) Erdapfel (mostly in south Germany and Austria)

Harvest losses – (die) Ernteeinbußen

Harvest – (die) Ernte 

Drought – (die) Dürre

Precipitation – (der) Niederschlag

Ground water level – (der) Grundwasserpegel

Fields – (die) Äcker 

Food processing industry – (die) Lebensmittelverarbeitungsindustrie 

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 ways to express surprise in German

From woodland fairies to whistling pigs, the German language has a colourful variety of phrases to express surprise.

10 ways to express surprise in German

1. Alter Schwede!

You may recognise this phrase from the cheese aisle at the supermarket, but it’s also a popular expression in Germany for communicating surprise. 

The phrase, which means “old Swede” comes from the 17th century when King Frederick William enlisted the help of experienced Swedish soldiers to fight in the Thirty Years’ War.

Because of their outstanding performance in battle, the Swedish soldiers became popular and respected among the Prussians, and they were respectfully addressed as “Old Swede”. Over the last three hundred years, the phrase developed into one to convey awed astonishment. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Alter Schwede

2. Holla, die Waldfee!

This curious expression literally means “Holla, the wood fairy”. It can be used both as an exclamation of astonishment and to insinuate that something is ridiculous.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Mareike Graepel

There are various explanations as to how the forest fairy made it into the German lexicon. Some say that it comes from the Grimm’s fairy tale “Frau Holle,” while others say it comes from an old song called “Shoo, shoo, the forest fairy!”

READ ALSO: 10 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true German

3. Das ist ja ein dicker Hund!

Literally meaning “that is indeed a fat dog!” this expression of surprise presumably originates from a time in the past when German dogs were generally on the thinner side.

4. Ich glaube, ich spinne!

The origin of this expression is questionable, because the word “Spinne” means “spider” and also “I spin”. Either way, it’s used all over Germany to mean “I think I’m going crazy” as an expression of surprise.

5. Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!

The idea of a pig whistling is pretty ridiculous, and that’s where the phrase  – meaning “I think my pig whistles” – comes from. Germans use this expression when they can’t believe or grasp something, or to express that they are extremely surprised.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

6. Meine Güte!

This straightforward phrase simply means “my goodness” and is a commonly used expression of astonishment.

7. Oha!

More of a sound than a word, this short exclamation will let the world know that you are shocked by something.

READ ALSO: Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

8. heilige Blechle!

Often when surprised or outraged, we might let slip an exclamation that refers to something sacred. This phrase fits into that bracket, as it means “holy tin box”. 

The peculiar expression comes from the Swabian dialect and refers to the cash box from which the poor were paid by the Church in the Middle Ages.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

9. ach du grüne Neune!

This slightly antiquated expression literally means “oh you green nine!”, or “oh, my goodness!” and is one you’re more likely to hear among the older generation of Germans.

The origin of the phrase is disputed. One explanation claims that it comes from the famous 19th century Berlin dance hall “Conventgarten” which, although it was located in Blumenstraße No. 9, had its main entrance in “Grüner Weg”. Therefore, the locals renamed it as “Grüne Neune” (Green Nine).

Another explanation is that the phrase comes from fairs where playing cards were used to read the future. In German card games, the “nine of spades” is called “green nine” – and pulling this card in a fortune telling is a bad omen.

10. Krass!

The word Krass in German is an adjective that means blatant or extreme, but when said on its own, it’s an expression of surprise. Popular among young Germans, it’s usually used in a positive way, to mean something like “awesome” or “badass”.  

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