New member of the Potatoes New Zealand board, David Redmond, with a bin of Nadine potatoes. He hopes access to the
Australian marketplace that has been firmly restricted will soon open up. Photo from Courier Country files.
While the door to the Australian market remains closed to
fresh produce for now, Canterbury potato growers are hopeful
it will not stay latched shut for long.
Potatoes New Zealand grower-director David Redmond, of
Ashburton, said it had been the case for a ''long while'' but
growers would like to be able to export to Australia.
''We export to Fiji and the Pacific Islands but that is a
small market with not much potential to expand. It would be
great to get our spuds into Australia.''
Only frozen, processed potatoes are allowed into Australia.
The Australian Senate Committee which was last month
considering allowing fresh potatoes into the country for
processing, postponed a decision saying another risk analysis
of biosecurity threats was needed first.
In particular, the committee feared an incursion of the
tomato-potato psyllid pest which would spread ''zebra chip''
Potatoes NZ was continuing to push for access and ultimately
would like the scope of access extended to include fresh
potatoes for consumption and seed.
Mr Redmond said having another market option would help ease
pressure on growers who were facing ever-increasing costs and
Potatoes were an expensive crop to grow, there was stiff
competition for land use, growers were ''squeezed by
processors'', and were being forced to take greater
investment risks to remain viable.
The industry needed to keep trying to break into the
Australian market, Mr Redmond said. Mid and South Canterbury
were principal potato-growing areas, along with Pukekohe and
Nearly 300 growers produce about 500,000 tonnes of potatoes a
Potatoes NZ chief executive Champak Mehta said admitting New
Zealand fresh potatoes for processing in Australia would
complement the present frozen trade and would also benefit
the Australian industry.
''We feel that the ability for Australian processors to
import New Zealand fresh potatoes for processing in times of
high demand that can't be met from domestic sources, gives
them a greater degree of flexibility and mitigates business
''This makes the Australian processing industry more globally
competitive, not less,'' Mr Mehta said.
Potatoes NZ's industry strategy, adopted last year, is to
double the value of fresh and processed New Zealand exports
Export of fresh potatoes has remained steady since 2003 at
about 27,000 to 30,000 tonnes.
Mr Mehta said potato growers had a much better understanding
of how best to control the tomato-potato psyllid.
Agrichemical use was targeted and more effective, and as a
result growers were using less on crops than before the
arrival of the pest, he said.
- by Ruth Grundy