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Australia - Western potato crops left to rot

Pemberton potato grower Brett De Campo has ploughed in 120 tons of perfectly good potatoes this month and has given another 30 tons to a Busselton dairy farmer for cattle feed. He expects to walk away from another 120 tons before his harvest ends in mid-May, because of a glut in the market that has worsened since industry deregulation in 2016.

WA Potato Growers Association chief executive Simon Moltoni said all growers in the Pemberton and Manjimup area, now nearing the end of their harvest, were in a similar situation, forced to waste some potatoes, as supply exceeded demand for the perishable product: “Growers in the Busselton area are starting to harvest now, and Myalup will be early and the yields are expected to be big following the cool summer, so there are just too many on the market.”

De Campo said the wasted potatoes represented a big chunk of his expected 2000-ton crop, planted across 35ha. It costs about $20,000 a hectare to grow and harvest potatoes, but Mr De Campo said he would be lucky to break even.

He is paid about 50-60¢ a kilogram for first-grade potatoes from wholesalers. Wholesalers sell them for anything between $1.15 and $1.20kg to major supermarkets, who retail them for $2.50 to $4kg.

De Campo expects to halve his production to 1000 tons next year. He had already reduced production from 3000 tons since deregulation. He plans will use the land for avocado trees, adding to plantings from four years ago which used funds from the potato deregulation industry adjustment package.

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