Spud chain to go under microscope

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Rourke WalshCountryman
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The WA potato industry is preparing for an independent review of all steps of its market supply chain.

The review, to be carried out independent of the Government and potato industry, will examine the complete process from growing potatoes to supplying them to consumers.

Potato Marketing Corporation chairman Bert Russell said he had been calling for a review for 12 months.

“Markets change rapidly today — within two years they can be vastly different, ” he said.

“From the paddock to the plate, any way of getting the produce to the consumer more efficiently I’m in favour of.”

Mr Russell said the review, which is about to get underway, had the support of the Department of Agriculture and Food and would focus on several areas, including the growing, transporting, handling and marketing of potatoes in WA.

Techniques like washing potatoes closer to the paddock, transporting potatoes at certain temperatures and investigating new varieties would all be looked at.

Mr Russell said he expected the report to be ready within six to 12 months.

“I’m looking forward to the release of the results, ” he said.

“Consumers are demanding a high quality product and we’ve got to find ways to give that to them.

“I just want to keep it (the potato industry) up to date with the modern world.”

WA Potato Growers Association executive officer Jim Turley said he welcomed the review.

“We’re very pleased with this initiative by the Potato Marketing Corporation, ” he said.

“The market has changed in the last few years and changes in the consumer supply change are needed to match.”

Baldivis potato grower Sam Calameri also said the review was something the industry needed.

“The industry certainly needs a shake-up because at the moment — there’s not a lot of money in it for growers, ” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it works out.”

Mr Calameri, who runs a 50-hectare potato property, said one of the main issues he hoped would be resolved was communication between major retailers and growers as to which varieties to grow.

Fellow potato grower Tony Galati, whose properties in Baldivis and Mylup combined cover 125ha, said he too expected dramatic improvement in the industry would result from the review.

“It will be a more efficient process once the review is complete, ” Mr Galati said.

“I think we’ll see improvement in things like quality, freshness and prices for both consumers and growers.”

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