Foreign spuds threaten Aussie markets
FROZEN French fries could soon flood Australian markets after coronavirus restrictions impacted European farmers, leaving them with an abundance of produce.
Regulatory bodies are in discussions to prevent such an event occurring, that could see more than 2.4 tonnes of produce dumped on Australian shelves.
Wickham Farms managing director Kerri Lamb said Australia's potato industry was in a good position to hold firm in the market.
"Many Australian consumers are unaware 100 per cent of fresh potatoes are grown in Australia," Mrs Lamb said.
"This is due to our quarantine laws and restrictions of fresh imports."
The Killarney-based farming operation, known for their potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins, services supermarkets and wholesalers.
Mrs Lamb said Australian shelves have always been flooded with frozen international produce, due to its cost effectiveness.
"Australia has had a long history of being flooded with cheap frozen potato imports from Europe," she said.
"This is due to the cost of product being lower as farmers are subsidised and manufacturing costs being highly automated and extremely efficient.
"Cheap imports are shipped to Australian and land here at a lower price than what Australians can grow and manufacture frozen products which put us at a competitive disadvantage."
AUSVEGE (the representative body for potato farmers) CEO James Whiteside confirmed in a statement that farmers were simply seeking stability in local markets.
"The (Australian) processors won't be able to clear their inventory and they won't be able to compete with substantially subsidised product," the statement said.
"And here we have a perfectly well operating market that just needs to be protected from dumped product."
While coronavirus has wreaked havoc on a number of industries across the country, Mrs Lamb said there had been a resurgence in consumers looking to buy locally grown produce.
"Many consumers purchased whole fruit and vegetables with a long shelf life as staples, and there was a lift in brushed potato sales," she said.
"Potatoes also compete with pasta and rice as a cheap long-life carb therefore with a limit on pasta and rice purchases, due to the short supply, potatoes were the next best thing."
The versatility of potatoes in cooking is one avenue Mrs Lamb wants explore and build upon in the future.
"There could be a silver lining from COVID-19 for fresh potato sales in Australia," she said.
"Although it could be thwarted by cheap frozen imports, I recommend Australian consumers look closely at where their frozen food are coming from."