Like many industries, 2020 brought a year of demand uncertainty for the potato processing industry with food service deeply affected in several states of Australia. Although the demand for crisps was strong, the processors of French fries were at times eagerly searching for frozen storage space as lockdowns and restrictions saw a rapid drop in consumption, according to an article published in the autumn 2021 edition of Potatoes Australia.
The ability to be able to store product avoided the devastating food losses that impacted other industries. To find out how the market is faring in 2021, AUSVEG met and talk with the Chair of the Potato Processors Association of Australia (PPAA).
National Agronomy Manager for Snack Brands Australia, Allan Smith, was elected to the role of Chairman of the PPAA in October 2019. Allan has worked exclusively in the crisping industry over the last 20 years and prior to that played a role in sustainable agricultural resource management with the Queensland government. With crisping processing reliant on fresh supply, Allan and his teamwork with growers across Australia to facilitate year round supply to their Sydney based processing operations.
Allan talks about the current status of the crisping market.
“Despite creating volatility in demand, COVID-19 hasn’t negatively impact overall consumption of crisping products. Although sales through outlets like petrol stations and convenience stores were affected, there was an overall incremental increase in consumption driven by demand through supermarkets,” he said.
“The instability had impacts right through to the growers supplying factories and their flexibility and support was appreciated. We see Australian consumption remaining solid and overall sales and consumption is expected to continue at 2020 levels.
“Some export of crisping potato and retail product is likely to continue, as is some importing; however, the industry remains relatively well insulated from mass import due to the nature of the product,” Allan outlined.
Josh Opas has held the Vice Chair position with the PPAA since 2019 and is the National Agricultural Manager for McCain Foods (Aust) based in Ballarat. Josh has had a long career in horticulture and joined McCain in 2001 working as a Tasmanian-based field officer before several career moves saw him stepping into the role of National Agriculture Manager.
Josh shares the market outlook for the Australian French Fry sector.
“The arrival of COVID-19 resulted in volatility in the market, and some 12 months later we are just starting to see demand return to pre-lockdown levels,” explained Josh. 2020 was a challenging time for processors; we needed to adjust our large-scale operations to supply more into the retail sector, and less into food services, which is not a trivial process.”
While the outlook for consumption is encouraging, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the EU is seeing greater availability of product on the global market, and fry imports for December were the highest for 2020.
“We are seeing companies reinvigorating their capital works programs which is an encouraging move for domestic production,” outlined Josh.
For more information or to provide your feedback to the Potato Processors Association of Australia, please contact Anne Ramsay on 0400 368 448 or at [email protected].
This article features in the autumn 2021 edition of Potatoes Australia. Click here to read the full publication.