Armstrong and Co employees Patrick Perniskie (left), of Reidston, and Sam Macdonald, of Herbert, grade Jersey Benne potatoes for the Oamaru market. Although the crop for the
local market is harvested and packed on site in Oamaru, 90% of the crop is destined for the packhouse in Rakaia. Photo by Ruth Grundy
The news is all good for potatoes.
The unassuming tuber has been not only named New Zealand's
top vegetable but has also been singled out by ANZ economists
as an ''unappreciated'' or unacknowledged'' sector to watch.
In this month's ANZ Agri Focus its economists have written
about several ''themes'' they consider will influence the
economy through 2014 and beyond.
Among the several ''unacknowledged legs of the New Zealand
Story'' which they say have the potential to contribute to
and underpin the New Zealand growth story is the potato
Specifically they have given the sector's new strategy -
ratified last September - the big tick for its goals and the
way it plans to contribute to the strategy of its umbrella
If ''successfully executed'' - by playing to its traditional
strengths, making improvements driven by sound research and
development, developing better marketing programmes - these
kinds of goals will drive growth, they say.
ANZ rural economist Con Williams said this was an example of
how smaller sectors could build on their strengths to
''transition, grow and improve'' balance sheets.
''Individually these sectors may be small at present, but
together they add up and, combined with faster growth,
Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Champak Mehta said the
potato industry was firmly behind HortNZ's plan to double the
horticulture industry's value to $10 billion by 2020 and
through that contribute to the Government's goal of doubling
agriculture sector exports by 2025.
''All the stars are aligning to capitalise on the growing
visibility of the potato industry,'' Mr Mehta said.
This would be achieved through initiatives set out in the new
strategy and in ''fundamental areas'' such as research and
development, marketing and export development.
In April, Potatoes New Zealand will begin a partnership with
the Foundation for Arable Research (Far) which is designed to
lift the sector's R&D ''horizon'' to a more strategic
level, Mr Mehta said.
''By combining resources, we can work together to answer the
`big picture' questions that we feel will provide the next
step in reaching our growth aspirations.''
Irrigation was ''a cornerstone'' of the plan to increase
profit from productivity.
Mr Mehta said increased irrigation, especially in the South
Island, has had ''readily evident'' spin-offs for growers and
the industry in general, with an increase in productivity.
There were challenges in increased costs in time and money to
meet compliance requirements, the uncertainty of long-term
water rights, greater competition for water and the increased
cost of land because of competing land uses.
''What this has meant is that potato farmers have had to take
a hard-nosed commercial approach to what other crop types
and, indeed, other farming systems they employ in conjunction
with their potato crops to optimise their return on
Their experience underscored the necessity across the
agricultural sector to continually improve to remain
competitive, he said.
''We were thrilled at being named New Zealand's most popular
vegetable in the latest Household Economic Survey.''
It showed Kiwis loved their potatoes and valued them for
providing healthy, delicious, affordable and easy-to-prepare
Despite its being a ''rising star'', Mr Mehta said, the
potato's true benefits - its health benefits, its convenience
and versatility - were still not fully appreciated by
consumers or health professionals and the industry planned to
do more to raise awareness.
Traditionally, the main focus of the potato sector had been
the domestic market but it planned to explore further export
There were constraints to fresh potato exports, particularly
phytosanitary requirements, he said.
Fiji was New Zealand's largest fresh potato export market,
but was ''mature and not increasing''.
It wanted to explore further direct fresh potato export
options to the Australian market and a variety of key
Southeast Asian markets, he said.
Process (frozen fries, crisping potatoes) export markets
faced fewer phytosanitary constraints but were subject to
tariffs and other trade barriers.
Australia was the biggest market for processed exports but
the industry was working to gain better market access into
Southeast Asia, he said.
''We have substantial challenges ahead but now feel confident
that we have the structures in place to pursue our strategic
plan and achieve our growth aspirations as an industry.''
Overall the new strategy should provide all growers, large
and small, with new opportunities.
By doubling export growth by 2020 larger scale growers would
have opportunities to focus their attention on markets off
shore, he said.
The newly formulated marketing plan was heavily focused on
increasing domestic consumption and growth by 50% by 2020.
This would give smaller growers more opportunities within the
domestic market, Mr Mehta said.