Aussie growers fighting NZ potato imports
Tasmanian farmers say New Zealand potatoes pose a biological threat to Tasmanian crops with local producers already facing reduced payments.
6 September 2012
Australian potato growers are lobbying the federal government to block the import of fresh potatoes from New Zealand.
AusVeg, the national industry body for vegetable growers, says it's "dismayed" the federal government has so far failed to block New Zealand potato imports that puts $A1.5 billion ($NZ1.9b) of production at risk from tomato-potato psyllid, "a destructive insect wreaking havoc in New Zealand".
"The processing sector in New Zealand has stated recently that potato production in the North Island is on a knife's edge as a result of this pest," AusVeg spokesman William Churchill said in a statement.
"Why are we willing to roll the dice and play games with our primary industries and food manufacturing sector?"
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association also says New Zealand potatoes pose a biological threat to Tasmanian crops, with local producers already under pressure from reduced payments.
"At stake is a Tasmanian industry worth $A110 million ($NZ141.8m) to 300 growers," association chief executive Jan Davis said.
Ms Davis said Tasmanian farmers had pleaded with Australian Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig not to allow the imports on scientific, economic and ethical grounds.
"Even without this threat they face a fragile future because of price cuts and reduced tonnages being secured by the processors from Tasmanian growers," she said.
"Processors are cutting costs. They are looking to cheaper imported potatoes, such as those from NZ.
"If our potatoes, the best on the world, are contaminated by the NZ diseases, not only will the local industry collapse, the Tasmanian economy will be enormously impacted."
AusVeg has created an online video to highlight the purported dangers of importing potatoes.
The video shows child-like caricatures of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Senator Ludwig and Trade Minister Craig Emerson playing a video game "destroying potatoes" between Australia and New Zealand. Then distraught-looking farmer "parents" are shown reading a newspaper with the headline AUSSIE CROPS DEVASTATED.
The campaign against New Zealand potatoes follows Australian apple growers successfully keeping NZ apples out of their market on biosecurity grounds, despite World Trade Organisation decisions in New Zealand's favour.
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