18 Jul 2012

Aussie potato growers say 'no' to imports ex NZ

1:03 pm on 18 July 2012

Australian vegetable grower group, Ausveg, says there are no biosecurity conditions it would agree to that would allow the importation of New Zealand potatoes.

Australia has a $A480 million potato industry, but shut the door to all imports of fresh potatoes in 1988.

Biosecurity Australia has released a draft paper outlining proposed conditions for importing potatoes for processing.

The New Zealand potato industry which has been trying to get access to Australia for six years, has welcomed the draft report.

But Ausveg opposes imports because of the tomato-potato psyllid, which has been in New Zealand since 2006. The pest spreads a bacterium which causes zebra chip disease in potatoes.

Ausveg chief executive Richard Mulcahy says it will not be swayed into risking the importation of potatoes.

He says the disease has been worse than expected in New Zealand and lost the industry $200 million.

"Much as we all love trade between the two countries, we do not believe this sort of risk is worth taking."

But Potatoes New Zealand chair Stuart Wright says it is confident potatoes grown here can meet the standards required for export.

Mr Mulcahywill have the chance to debate the issues with New Zealand growers at a Horticulture New Zealand conference in Auckland next week.