Industry experts claim that potato growers will walk away from the sector as cost pressures make the staple crop unviable in Australia. Unlike most vegetables, potatoes are not traded on wholesale markets that rise and fall with supply and demand. Instead, they are sold by farmers to companies that wash and package them (washpackers) and set prices with supermarkets in much the same way as dairy milk processors.
WA Seed Potato Producers president Julian Ackley: "It's not really a free market. The price doesn't really go up or down for the farmer based on demand or supply. At the moment, most growers are really doing it for nothing. We'll probably see another 5 to 10 per cent of what's left of them drop out this season."
Ackley warned that family farmers leaving the industry would be replaced by corporations. "We're looking at least at 10-cents-a-kilo more costs, and I can't see how the fresh market growers are going to get it unless something changes," he said. "I think it's going to come down to more big corporate growers controlling the industry."