Devastated potato growers to seek Government assistance

Mathew Gay, President Crookwell Potato Growers Association inspecting his crop of potatoesCROOKWELL’S seed potato growers will seek assistance from the State Government because of the catastrophic affect of the fortnight of heavy rain on their crops.
Nanjing Night Net

Total income lost throughout the district could amount to as much as $3 million, with most expecting 50% to 80% loss of crop, with some plots and varieties experiencing 100 per cent loss.

Losses may increase, depending on further rain from now until harvest.

Most crops were due for harvest in the next two or three weeks, but because the heavy harvesting equipment could not be used on the paddocks the potatoes will have to stay in the ground.

This means massive loss of income for growers, and for contractors and workers laid off.

An emergency meeting of growers at the Crookwell Services Club on Friday decided to seek disaster funding to help the local industry through the crisis – which could have implications for the industry in future years.

The meeting was called by senior inspector, regulatory, Central West, Paul Anderson and Regional Director of Agriculture, South Eastern, Anne Muir.

Growers pointed out that the potatoes now will stay in the ground and succumb to skin discoloration, blemishes and lesions making them unsaleable.

The problem for seed production extends beyond the current season for many specialty varieties, which may take ten years to develop a new researched variety from tissue culture, tuber growth, planted and harvested as seed, replanted and multiplied, to wholesale of No. 1 potatoes fit for consumer tables.

The loss of income from a 20-acre seed lot to the grower is $369,000 which includes all input costs from ground preparation to the present state of growth.

But this multiplies to $3.6 million to the commercial growers the seed farmers supply in one season.

Another major threat lies with the growers supplied with seed from Crookwell losing the wholesale trade to Coles and Woolworths, who may not come back to them if forced to look elsewhere this year.

One grower at the meeting said that he would have to sit down and do the sums to see if he could afford to purchase seed for plantings later this year.

The loss of local seed, and with a quarantine in place for the district, presents a major problem also for the sole registered organic grower in the district.

Growers at the meeting were fearful for the long term effects of the disaster, as it could take five years to restore certified seed production – and at a considerable cost and with the question mark over future access to markets.

“Who is going to put their hand up to carry this financial burden in such times of uncertainty” is the question growers are asking.

Australian Food Security depends on this outcome for the next generation of farmers.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.