Wednesday, 13 September 2023 13:55

Spuds losing ground to housing

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Potatoes NZ chief executive Kate Trufitt says land use is one of the major challenges facing the sector. Potatoes NZ chief executive Kate Trufitt says land use is one of the major challenges facing the sector.

Potato growers are losing prime land to urban sprawl, with over 3000ha lost since 2016.

In 2016, 11,680ha of land was used for growing potatoes; this has dropped to 8424ha, according to Potatoes New Zealand.

New PNZ chief executive Kate Trufitt says land use is one of the major challenges facing the sector.

“We are seeing highly productive land being gobbled up by housing,” Trufitt told Rural News.

“This is a concern not only for NZ but worldwide where we are seeing the demand for potatoes outstripping the supply.”

According to Truffit, other challenges facing potato growers are compliance and regulatory changes, rising costs, global markets and change in diets.

Trufitt says the current Government is very focused on putting a lot of regulatory compliance out, to the point of freshwater farm plans coming growers’ way.

“But we’ve got councils saying, ‘how are we going to implement this?’ So, you got government deciding things, but when things go down to the councils, they are struggling,” she told Rural News.

“How are they going to make that work for a grower?”

Trufitt points to the sustainable vegetables system (SVS) programme, which looks at nitrogen management among growers.

She says there are systems under the farm environmental plans (FEPs) where they can put in tools to help growers.

“Because it is just what they do: they need to show the evidence that that’s what they do.”

Trufitt says FEPs are being implemented by growers and some are being helped by fertiliser co-operatives like Ballance.

But there are other growers who are waiting and watching.

“They are waiting to see what things are going to look like. They don’t want to do a whole lot of work and then the Government or council comes along and says, ‘no you can’t do it this way’.

“So, there’s been a lot of confusion around the messages coming down.”

Trufitt believes over next the two years, FEPs will become a useful tool for growers.

The potato sector remains important to the economy; farmgate value of potatoes is $174 million with $118m earned in exports.

The country’s 174 growers produce 419,000 tonnes of potatoes and about 234,000 tonnes of that are processed. Exports are made up of frozen fries and fresh potatoes.

Trufitt says the domestic market is very important to growers.

“Thanks to all the New Zealanders who enjoy their potatoes.”

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