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TAS Country : August 26th 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010 Tasmanian Country 7 News NZ spud disease import fear Richard Mulcahy This has the potential to be catastrophic for the Australian potato industry .' ALLOWING News Zealand potatoes into Australia could wreck the nation's potato industry, according to Ausveg chief Richard Mulcahy. The zebra chip disease, spread by the tomato-potato psyllid, had caused wide- spread destruction in New Zealand, Mr Mulcahy said. ''This has the potential to be cata- strophic for the Australian potato industry and I must say that I've been very surprised at the lack of appreci- ation for the gravity of the situation by Biosecurity Australia in the dis- cussions we've held with them,'' he said. ''The information we're getting from experts who've travelled to New Zea- land investigating the devastation this disease has caused there, is that there is so much we don't know about the disease that we'd be crazy to take the risk by importing potatoes from coun- tries like New Zealand, which we know are highly infected.'' Mr Mulcahy said it had been esti- mated tomato-potato psyllids had cau- sed losses of $43 million for New Zealand producers in 2008/09. Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association vegetable council chair Mike Badcock said: ''In past times we have had potatoes come in from New Zealand for processing, but it was done under very, very tight restrictions. ''In the case of fresh-market potatoes it could be a disaster if if there was a virus in the potato. People take those potatoes home and grow them in their gardens and all of a sudden we've got virus-infected potatoes growing in our environment.'' Mr Badcock said while potatoes were still an important part of Tasmania's vegetable industry, some farmers were choosing to grow more economical crops. He has not grown potatoes at his Forth property for five years and has moved into cabbages and cauliflowers, oriental lily bulbs, peas, poppies and beans. ''I found the economics didn't add up, with the risk that if you got a disease it was going to take you a lot of money to get out of,'' he said. Mr Badcock said the Australian vegetable industry was facing enough challenges without introduced pests and diseases being added to the mix. ''There's a couple of young farmers in my area who recently sold up,'' he said. ''This is the last thing we want to happen, young people leaving the industry because potatoes and other crops aren't lucrative enough. ''A recent outbreak in New Zealand of zebra chip virus made the costs of potato growing over there rise con- siderably. We're struggling to cover the current cost.'' Federal Braddon MP Sid Sidebottom said imported potatoes must not be allowed to threaten the Tasmania's processing industry. Mr Sidebottom said he had written an urgent letter to Agriculture Minis- ter Tony Burke to alert him to the situation and ask for urgent attention. ''The potato industry is a key part of agriculture in the North-West, and it supports a significant processing sec- tor, which is a major employer in the region,'' he said. Greens Senator for Tasmania Chri- stine Milne said Tasmania was famous for its potatoes and the industry could not afford to be put at risk by diseases. Tomato growers were also at risk. ''The scientists admit that they don't enough about this zebra chip disease and certainly New Zealand biosecurity doesn't know how the tomato-potato psyllid got to New Zealand. ''If New Zealand doesn't know how it got in with its strong biosecurity regime, why would anyone think we could keep it out?'' she said. HELPING HAND: Financial counsellor Paul Briant is concerned some farmers might not know about the RFCST service. Picture: CHRIS KIDD Money mentor eases the pain JENNIFER CRAWLEY Now is the time they need to be looking at cash reserves for the next 12 months. We can call on them on the farm, help them crunch those numbers and help them with a cashflow plan.' A NEW rural financial counsellor has been appointed to help vegetable producers affected by the McCain factory closure in the north west. Paul Briant will work alongside counsellor Judy Pinny who has provided services in the region since 2007. Mr Briant has worked in accounting for the past 15 years, most recently as a business manager with Tasmanian company WHK on the North-West Coast. He said he was unaware Rural Financial Counselling Services Tasmania existed until he saw his position advertised. ''My grandparents had been farming,'' Mr Briant said. ''The nature of this work is so positive.'' Mr Briant said there were farmers who might not know about the service because they had not needed assistance in the past. He said it was difficult to say how many farmers were affected by the McCain closure. ''Very few of them have approached us for out and out help and declared themselves as McCain farmers,'' Mr Briant said. He said he expected to get inquiries from farmers with cashflow problems early next year --- the time they would normally be harvesting. ''It would be good if they were speaking to us sooner rather than later,'' he said. ''Now is the time they need to be looking at cash reserves for the next 12 months. We can call on them on the farm, help them crunch those numbers and help them with a cashflow plan.'' RFCST has established a new office above the Elders rural store at Wynyard. The two RFCST counsellors give free support to farmers, fishers and small rural business operators. They visit clients on properties and help with cashflow budgets and financial analysis. The counsellors help with succession planning, retirement issues and access to government programs and assistance. RFCST executive officer Elizabeth Skirving said Mr Briant trained with Ms Pinny who works with dairy farmers in the region. ''I am confident that Paul will be a valuable member of our team,'' Ms Skirving said. ''He understands farming, he understands family enterprises and he understands the pressures experienced by farm families.'' Ms Skirving encouraged farmers and small rural businesses who were concerned about future prospects or those experiencing difficulty to make contact with the service as soon as possible. More information is available by phoning 1300 883 276 or visiting rfcstasmania.com.au.
August 19th 2010
September 2nd 2010