The New Zealand potato industry saw supply chain disruptions, changing protocols for health and safety and a polarization of political and health ideologies in the last 21 months of the pandemic response, the industry body says in a recent newsletter.
Gemma Carroll, Potatoes NZ communications and engagement officer, writes in the newsletter that NZ potato growers across the country have been under immense pressure during 2021, “due to imminent Regional Plan Changes, ongoing pest challenges, weather events, the threat to our processing sector due to cut-price European imports, (deemed not of enough material threat to respond to by our government) and in the Pukekohe/Waikato/Northland regions, massive disruption due to ongoing lockdowns and the spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant.”
Carroll says that through it all “we have continued to deliver the best NZ potatoes to our markets and produce the best NZ potato products.”
The data from 2020, presented in the PNZ Annual Report, shows continued value growth despite pandemic setbacks in the export market, thanks to a strong domestic market. The industry value is now $1.160 million, 58% growth since 2013 when industry targets were set.
PNZ says the sustainability challenge for its industry is how to both adapt to the climate crisis and mitigate any threats such as extreme weather events or pest and disease. This will, in part, be driven by regulatory compliance, but most farmers are aware of the environmental and climate challenges on their own farms.
The solutions are being sought in PNZ’s research and development programme. The NZ Potato Growers’ Levy is only spent on research, development, and extension (RD&E) activities.
In the last year $1.7 million was spent on RD&E which amounts to 112% of the levy. For every dollar of levy, PNZ spend $1.12 on RD&E as we were directed to, by growers at the time of the last levy vote in 2019.
There are currently nine projects on the go. Research from the programme will be shared with the whole of industry. There are multiple workstreams planned to include a short-term examination of chemical resistance, medium-term work on alternative control measures, integrated pest management, over-wintering plant hosts, bio stimulants, and reducing psyllid impact once it is in the potato crop and long-term projects to breed for resistance and identify alternative control strategies.
“We are a +$1-billion-dollar industry and we ensure our grower levies are used to continue to improve potato breeding, environmental management, sustainable practices and to encourage healthy consumer choices by including free online foodservice training,” PNZ says in its newsletter.
Source: Potatoes NZ (PNZ). Read the full newsletter here
Cover image: PNZ