In late February, the Brazilian Government imposed an anti-dumping duty on frozen potatoes imported from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Brazil is an important export market for potato processors in Western Europe, so this duty can have significant economic impact for the processors.
The issue arose when the Brazilian government started an anti-dumping investigation on the import of frozen potato products from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands in 2015. The anti-dumping measure is a tool agreed to under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and requires a formal investigation according to a defined protocol. The investigation aims to assess if the imported products are sold at a lower price than the product price in the country of origin.
Brazil started the anti-dumping investigation following a complaint by the Brazilian potato processing company, Bem Brasil Alimentos Ltda. According to Bem Brasil, large volumes of inexpensive frozen potato products were imported from Western Europe in the year ending June 2015.
The level of the duty is not yet known. Worst case scenario, frozen potato products from Western Europe get hit with a 40 per cent additional anti-dumping duty.
The Netherlands exported 83,000 tonnes of frozen potatoes to Brazil in the year ending November 2015 and Belgium 71,000 tonnes, making this a significant issue for the processors in these countries.
The Vereniging voor de Aardappelverwerkende Industrie, VAVI (or Dutch Potato Processing Association, DPPA) is disappointed with the decision. Hylke Brunt, Secretary General of the DPPA, is not yet clear on what will happen next. “When the resolution takes force, if it is final or that parliament still has a say, as well as timing and routing: all of this is still unclear. As soon as we know more about that, we can consider what steps to take next.”
What is clear though is that numerous potato processing companies in countries not affected by these anti-dumping duties are more than eager to take the place of the processors in Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Potato producers in southwest Western Australia say the detection of the tomato potato psyllid is a “serious blow” to their industry.
The psyllid is known to attack a range of plants in the Solanaceae family, including potato and also sweet potato.
It is the first time the pest has been detected in Australia. It has so far been detected in tomatoes and eggplants in Perth, in tomatoes at two properties in Mount Hawthorn, in chilies at a property in Palmyra and in a capsicum crop on a commercial property north of Perth.
While the psyllid does not pose risk to human health, it feeds on plants, causing yellowing of the leaves and misshapen fruit, and in severe cases it can kill the plant entirely.
However, there is not only concern for the psyllid. More of a worry to southwest Western Australian producers is the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the zebra chip disease in potatoes, rendering them completely unmarketable.
The Liberibacter has not yet been discovered with the psyllid in Australia, but scientists are concerned because its pathway is unknown.
Due to its size, it is believed the psyllid can easily spread throughout a region on people, plants or wind currents — a prospect of serious concern to the Western Australian potato industry.
There are concerns the psyllid could impact international export markets.
The head of Idaho’s potato seed certification program says growers appear to have made progress in controlling bacterial ring rot challenges, and their potato virus Y infection rates seem to have flattened.
Alan Westra, area manager of the Idaho Crop Improvement Association, based his observations on early numbers from ongoing seed certification testing.
In 2014 — following a ring rot flare-up — Idaho implemented rules governing the devastating pathogen, including mandatory testing of seed lots seeking certification or recertification. The association has zero tolerance for ring rot, rejecting any seed lots in which the disease is found. Officials also seek to trace the origin of infections.
Westra said ring rot laboratory testing and field inspections eliminated 1,700 acres from the certification program in 2015. He said results from 64 percent of 2016 seed lots required to undergo testing are in, and just 10 acres have been eliminated.
“So far, it’s down considerably from what it has been in the last three years,” Westra said. “Hopefully, it’s due to the fact that we’ve been testing, plus the industry at large is doing a better job between all of the other testing that’s done outside of the program and a greater attention to sanitation.”
The program also calls for swabbing of equipment to gauge effectiveness of sanitation. Westra said growers did a good job of sanitizing seed cutters — often implicated in spreading ring rot — but the bacteria was frequently found in unexpected places, including pilers and conveyors. Ring rot also surfaced often on the rubber belts that move spud piles in potato trucks. He said one commercial trailer that was swabbed also tested positive for ring rot, indicating growers shouldn’t assume ring rot originates from seed and that it is truly an “industry-wide problem.”
The certification program also plants tubers from Idaho seed lots in Hawaii to test for PVY, which is spread by aphids. Of the 2015 seed, half of the lots had no confirmed PVY. Westra said 67 percent of acres were eligible for recertification through the program for having less than 2 percent PVY.
“I expect the levels to be about the same,” Westra said, adding final testing and retesting of the 2016 crop is still taking place.
Westra said PVY infections have been roughly flat during the past four years.
Westra has also emphasized training his workers to properly score the “blackleg” symptoms of Dickeya dianthicola, a bacterial pathogen that has been spreading in many U.S. potato production areas. Westra said other states are now “catching up” to Idaho, which has long-established tolerances for blackleg, and the disease hasn’t yet posed a serious concern in the Gem State.
“We want to make sure we’re on top of this before we have a problem develop,” Westra said.