The potato industry within Australia needs to come together to develop a plan and make potatoes appealing again from a marketing perspective, to solve the oversupply issues plaguing the industry. That is the message from grower Tony Cummaudo, of Cummaudo Farms, situated just half an hour away from Thorpdale, where there is a late harvest still happening. On Friday it was reported that growers who have spent thousands of dollars growing potatoes will not be able to sell them, and will have to let them go for less than the cost of production. The harvest will also be a month later than expected due to weather conditions and the size of the yield.
Mr Cummaudo’s comments come off the back of reports that there are too many potatoes still in the ground in key growing areas like Thorpdale, which is ideally located to protect crops from extreme cold, and harsh rain, but can turn out more than the market demands when the harvest in the rest of the country is not disrupted by pests or bad weather.
“Overall that is definitely the situation, we’ve had a good year for harvest. There are no pests around, and yields are up,” said Mr Cummaudo. “Unfortunately, without the proper marketing to create demand, that leads to oversupply for growers who don’t have commitments from their customers.” As a supplier to one of the major supermarkets, Coles, Mr Cummaudo has prior commitments to purchase the potatoes he grows, but he says that all growers need to remain disciplined, and look for efficiencies in their practices. “We here at Cummaudo Farms handle our potatoes like eggs, focus on quality and always look for ways to improve our practices. We’re also starting to diversify and grow onions as well.”
There have been a couple of meetings with people in the potato industry, however things are not moving fast enough to correct the current situation, Mr Cummaudo said. “Things are happening, but not happening fast enough. As an industry, fresh potatoes should be more popular. They’re really high in potassium, and a great vegetable, but everyone’s afraid to eat them because they think they’re too fattening, which they’re not when cooked properly,” he told Fresh Plaza. “They’ve had good success marketing and creating demand with avocados and mangoes. They’ve done it in other areas, so I don’t see why we can’t.” The oversupply issue should be better managed in future, he said, and he has issued a call to the industry to act soon in order to change the outcome.
There is also a place for negotiating on price to distribute surplus amounts. Tasmanian growers have negotiated with Simplot to take 5% above quota amounts, which is an arrangement that 20 growers in that state have agreed to, according to the latest reports.
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