Following eight years at the helm of Potatoes South Australia, Robbie Davis will be stepping down from her role of Chief Executive at the end of 2020. The change comes as the Association moves into new territory with a greater emphasis on Brand Australia and growing national significance of the world’s 3rd largest food crop to the Australian horticulture industry. Despite this inevitable and exciting new challenge, Robbie believes it is the right time to say farewell to the representative body she has built with the help of a band of dedicated stakeholders from all sectors.
New Zealand, Australia
PhD opportunity in Australia: ‘Development of molecular diagnostic tests to detect key plant parasitic cyst nematodes’
Details about this project are published on the Australasian Plant Pathology Society’s Jobnet. It entails the “Development of molecular diagnostic tests to detect key plant parasitic cyst nematodes in soil and in planta that impact Australian agricultural production and restrict market access”. This project proposes to build Victoria’s capability to detect and identify plant parasitic cyst nematodes using molecular techniques.
It was widely reported in Australian media that Pure Foods Tasmania is planning to buy the business and assets of Daly Potato Company for $1.8 million. Daly Potato Company emerged from a 30-year-old farm owned by the Daly family on Tasmania’s southeast coast. Its premium potato salads are sold to major supermarket chains including Woolworths, Coles and Metcash with sales growing in the last three years from $211,000 to $2million.
With Kiwis eating fewer hot chips during lockdown, one of New Zealand’s largest potato chip manufacturers was forced to cut production significantly for six weeks at its Timaru factory until the backlog was cleared. McCain Foods agriculture director Australia and New Zealand John Jackson said the company’s factory at Washdyke, Timaru, had reduced its usual 24/7 production to five day a week shifts when stock built up due to reduced orders. Fifteen weeks after takeaway food businesses and restaurants were allowed to re-open, the factory has returned to normal production.
The Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand says it is seeking views on an application to import or manufacture Soleto, a broad spectrum herbicide for potatoes. Soleto contains the active ingredient metobromuron, which is approved in Europe but not currently in New Zealand. The applicant, Belchim Crop Protection, wants to import Soleto for the control of broadleaf weeds in potatoes, using ground-based application methods.
The Ministry of Health is moving to counter criticism that it is using its powers to exempt trucks and workers moving in and out of Auckland to restrict workers going to jobs in potato crisp factories. The chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, Katherine Rich, is particularly critical that the role of granting the exemption to cross in and out of the Auckland Council region has shifted from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to the Ministry of Health.
Western Australia’s processed potato sales hit by COVID-19 lockdowns; high demand for fresh potatoes
The Western Australian french fry processing industry is bouncing back, according to the state’s peak industry body, after suffering “a dramatic effect” from COVID-19, with sales crashing when lockdown restrictions were implemented. WA Potatoes Senior Project Manager, Georgia Thomas says that the WA industry has reported high demand for potatoes this winter led by a range of factors across the year including higher online sales.
A new herbicide that controls potato weeds, like black nightshade, has been approved by the Environmental Protection Authority for use in New Zealand, subject to certain conditions. Boxer Gold is intended to be used as a herbicide for the treatment of broadleaf and grass weeds in potato crops. Benefits identified in the application process for this product include reduced resistance in weeds, leading to bigger potato crops, and more product choice for farmers.
Callum Murphy is a Ballarat potato grower whose family’s relationship with McCain Foods Ballarat spans three generations. Callum, his father, and his grandfather have worked with McCain for 40 years to streamline production and create a relationship that is mutually beneficial. Callum Murphy of AP Murphy and Sons in Dunstown is proud to uphold his family’s relationship with McCain Ballarat for the third consecutive generation. “The relationship has been solid and it’s reliable to work with McCain. We work with them each year to improve output,” Callum says.
Australian potato farmers are enjoying improved access to the Thai market with two key commitments now realised under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Thailand has now implemented zero tariffs and the removal of tariff rate quotas that limited the volume that could access the lower TAFTA tariff rate for Australian seed and processing potatoes. Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the removal of limits was a boost for potato farmers.
Declining consumption of potatoes in Australia is not enough reason to block the sale of Thomas Foods International’s potato packing business to fellow South Australian-based rival Mitolo, says the national competition regulator. “Feedback from potato growers and other industry participants suggested if Mitolo sought to lower prices it paid growers, most producers would be able to switch to rival packing sheds,” said ACCC deputy chairman Mick Keogh.
In a press release issued today, the company says completing construction and commissioning a $37 million plant upgrade, managing staff to continue operations in the middle of Tasmania’s COVID-19 hotspot, and navigating ever-changing shift profiles – it’s been a challenging six months for McCain Foods’ Smithton plant. As one of the region’s largest employers, McCain Foods has officially “come out on the other side” with the site’s production recently returning to a full seven-day roster.
The potato industry in Australia is now in a state of ‘high alert’ for any potential French fries dumping activity from the EU, highlighting its chief concerns as price plummeting and farmer welfare after a tough season. The alert was raised after the European Union (EU) recently passed an EUR650mn (US$741.1/A$1.1.mn) COVID-19 government assistance scheme that would enable EU firms to export their processed potatoes cheaply Down Under, where before it had never been a common avenue.
AUSVEG, the industry representative for Australia’s vegetable and potato growers, has welcomed the announcement from Agriculture Minister David Littleproud that two key commitments are now realised under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which will improve market access for Australian potato exporters into the Thai market.
The peak representative body for the potato industry value chain, Potatoes South Australia Incorporated, has appointed experienced director Mr Mark Geraghty as its new Independent Chair, at a meeting of the Association’s Board on 24 June 2020. Mr Geraghty replaces Dr Andrew MacDonald who has been in the role since 2017. Dr MacDonald said that the Board was very pleased to announce Mr Geraghty’s appointment at a time when Potatoes South Australia is entering an exciting new phase of its evolution.
“Maybe it’s my DNA, my Irish roots, but I love potatoes. Agria, Red Rascals, Ilam Hardy…spuds rock. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without Oamaru Jersey Bennies. Our one billion dollar potato industry is a relatively intimate one, employing around five thousand people, in growing and processing. With year round harvesting, it’s a stable employer. And the industry deserves a fair go.” So said New Zealander Mike Yardley on the Mike Hosking breakfast show this morning.
McCain Foods Australia has announced today it has commenced construction on a renewable energy system that will reduce emissions from its Ballarat food processing facility by more than 27,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The project, which will house Australia’s largest “behind-the-meter” renewable energy system, will subsidise McCain’s energy consumption in Ballarat by 39 per cent. The solar power, which will be generated from unused flat space on existing land surrounding the plant, will also provide three electric charging ports and shaded car spaces.
Potatoes NZ says in a press release issued today that it has submitted an application to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) for anti-dumping duties on frozen potato products originating in Belgium and the Netherlands. The application is based on the real threat of material injury to the New Zealand potato industry. The threat is said to be a result of huge surplus inventories of frozen potato products and processing potatoes in Belgium and the Netherlands, the organization says.
Wyma Solutions announced today the appointment of Danny Burns as Global After Sales Manager. This appointment follows several years of sustained growth and further recognition by Wyma of the ever-growing importance of maintaining strong after sales and operational relationships with customers. The appointment of a dedicated After Sales Manager position is a strong indication of Wyma’s confidence in the current market as well as their continued focus on delivering excellent customer care and ongoing support.
Guy Barnett, Minister for Primary Industries and Water, says the Tasmanian Liberal Government has made biosecurity a priority to protect the state’s reputation as a premium producer of agricultural and seafood products. Working closely with industry and the community, Biosecurity Tasmania has recently completed the first year of a three-year volunteer plant pest surveillance program called the ‘TPP Adopt-a-Trap-Survey’. Strict biosecurity regulations are in place to reduce the risk of entry of this pest to Tasmania.
Shoppers are racing to get their hands on McCain’s classic Potato Smiles after the nostalgic snack disappeared from Australian supermarket shelves five years ago. Thousands of Australians have been rallying for years to bring back the iconic childhood treat after it was discontinued in 2015. ‘For many Australians, these are something they’ve looked back on fondly as part of their childhood. After years of build-up, it’s heartening to know that they’re meeting expectations,’ McCain Foods marketing manager ANZ Karen Ramsay said.
Light conditions in retail stores may contribute to potato greening, says a team of researchers at the University of Tasmania in their recently published study on this subject. In this study, the research team says they aimed to develop a “potato tuber greening risk rating model” for retail stores based on light quality and intensity parameters. Greening risk, which varied between stores, was found to be related to light intensity level, and partially explained potato stock loss in stores.