Rain decimates Tasmanian potato crop; processors fear European spuds will be dumped on Aussie market

Rain decimates Tasmanian potato crop; processors fear European spuds will be dumped on the Aussie market.(Courtesy: Trevor Hall)

Tasmanian potato growers, who produce the bulk of Australia’s French fries, are having a disastrous harvest. Months of wet weather is making it impossible to get onto paddocks in parts of the state. Hugh Hogan and Laurissa Smith report on Tas Country Hour. Waterlogged potatoes, destined for French fries, have been left to rot.

Those farmers and contractors that are persevering are getting machinery bogged and are running into storage problems. Scottsdale grower Trevor Hall said it is demoralizing.

Trevor Hall, Scottsdale grower:
 

“I reckon if you’re a potato grower this year if you make a profit, you’ve done extremely well.”

“If you break even, you’re very lucky. There will be significant losses in grower land, there’s no doubt about that.”

Potatoes are the most valuable vegetable crop grown in Tasmania — but one of the most expensive to grow. It costs up to USD 16,000 a hectare to plant and harvest the crop.

Processors Simplot and McCain Foods told they expect to lose 10 percent of their entire crop this year. That figure equates to around 60,000 tonnes of potatoes.

But many farmers said that crop losses will be much higher. At the same time, processors fear a glut of European potatoes, caused by the shutdown of the foodservice sector, which will be dumped on the Australian market.

'It’s critical that this sort of dumping is not allowed to decimate our domestic potato market for growers,' a McCain spokesperson said.

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