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Western Australia potato grower Darren Barker has been forced to feed unmarketable potatoes to his livestock. (Photo: Tyne Logan, ABC Rural)

Seed potatoes go to waste due to trade restrictions

The repercussions of the tomato potato psyllid outbreak are taking shape in Western Australia (WA), with seed potato growers starting to feed hundreds of tonnes of perfectly good produce to their cattle.

With exports of WA potatoes and tomatoes still ground to a halt, and a fully supplied local market, seed potato producers have no home for their produce.

It has forced many growers, such as Albany’s Trevor Barker, to dump their product. Barker has already fed 50 tonnes of his crop to the cows.

In usual circumstances, the 300 tonnes of potato would have earned Barker about $200,000.

Perhaps the biggest worry for the industry at the moment is whether to plant for next year.

Pemberton seed potato farmer Alan Parker said farmers needed to know what the protocol would be going forward, so they could decide whether or not it was viable to continue to grow for interstate markets.

“There are going to be extra costs as far as monitoring goes, surveying the crop with [the department] and further sprays,” he said. “We need to be aware of it so we can put a [budget] structure around it so we have an understanding of what the costs are upfront, rather than stumbling around in November and December saying ‘It’s too expensive, we can’t do it.'”

It is a question Potato Growers Association of Western Australia (PGAWA) president Simon Moltoni has been desperately trying to get answers to. But he said after regularly meeting with other state representatives, as well as the Department of Agriculture and Food, he did not believe there would be an official protocol any time soon.

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