Australians are getting back to some semblance of normality after the lockdowns caused by the Covid pandemic.
As the markets get back to normal Allan Mahony from Sweet Potatoes Australia said that they kept going right through the lockdowns and never missed day, only some non-essential staff stayed at home.
“During the lockdown the food service trade took a hit, but we were still supplying the same number of people, the market just changed as retail sales increased. Retailers prefer smaller sizes than the fresh cut or processing markets, so we were harvesting early to keep the sizes down to the preferred size, we were lucky in that we were at the end of the crop which helped with this,” explains Allan.
Supply was short two months before Christmas due to a strong domestic demand and some exports had to be put on hold. “We still supplied our Dubai customers but exports to the UK had to stop, we are getting exports back on schedule now and will supply Europe and Thailand again.”
“The weather has been good through the summer and although it was not all plain sailing, we got through the start of the cyclone season very well and missed the big summer rainstorms which hit to the north and south of us. Here in Bundaberg we are blessed with a very good climate.”
Allan sees an opportunity in the European market now that imports of sweet potatoes from the US carry a 25% tariff. Although he admits it is still a tough market with a lot of players.
According to Alan logistics is a painful side of the business just now, “There is no such thing as an express service anymore, not much customer care and scheduling is a nightmare. You can load a container and find that after a week it is still in the port, shipping companies are charging whatever they like. There is a standard AU$ 300 dollar charge when shipping from Melbourne due to the hold ups there. There are still thousands of containers stuck in China, this has been the case since the start of the pandemic. There is hardly any airfreight available and even if you get a place it can be cancelled at anytime if a better offer comes along for the carrier.”