5 Oct 2023

Proper Crisps turns to Australia for kūmara supply as shortage bites

2:40 pm on 5 October 2023

A shortage of kūmaras after Cyclone Gabrielle has caused supply issues for Proper Crisps Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

A Nelson chip company is having to source sweet potato from Australia due to a shortage of New Zealand kūmara.

In February Cyclone Gabrielle devastated kūmara crops in Northland creating a supply shortage.

Proper Crisps normally gets kūmara from the region for its kūmara crisps but is now using sweet potato from Australia in what it's calling a 'temporary sweet switcheroo" as it works with farmers to get crops back to normal to resume long term supply agreements.

Company spokesperson Duncan Kerr said Proper Crisps set up a factory in Yarra Valley in Victoria last year to meet growing demand.

Ingredients are sourced locally with crops from New Zealand used to make Proper Crisps here, and crops from Australia to make crisps there.

"That is until we're faced with an issue like a kūmara shortage.

"We worked with our local supplier for as long as possible to keep up production of our kūmara product, but with supply forecast to run out this month, we needed a fix.

"We'll supply both Kiwis and Aussies with our hand-cooked Proper Crisps from our Proper Chef's in Yarra this season, and then when kūmara is back next season, we'll go back to sourcing our kūmara from Kaipara and making our crisps in Nelson," Kerr said.

Proper Crisps kūmara supplier of nine years Ant Blundell of Kaipara Kūmara said he lost 99 percent of his crop to the floods.

"It's the right move for Proper Crisps to sub in sweet potato for kūmara until we can get back to supplying them properly next season, we're grateful for the partnership and that they've made that commitment to us.

"In our 50 years of harvesting kūmara, this year's weather is by far the biggest challenge we've faced, since the floods, we've been left with 1500 tonnes of kūmara compared to our usual 8000 tonnes."

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