Potato growers across the Warren Blackwood have revealed their struggle to meet standards set by retail giants Coles and Woolworths.
Potato Growers Association and Vegetables WA executive officer Jim Turley said although growers could meet retail requirements in most years, turbulent weather in recent months had proved challenging.
“We’ve had massive heatwaves in Manjimup and then at the beginning of November we had massive rainfall,” he said.
“Weather conditions play difficult parts in the production of potatoes.’’
Potato Growers Association Manjimup zone chairman and grower Andrew Tempra said retailers and consumers needed to be aware of the drawbacks of growing potatoes in rich soils.
“You’re going to get some discolouration and not the really white shiny skin you’re looking for in a potato,” he said.
Mr Tempra said growers across the region were working to improve soils but consumers needed to be better informed about the product.
“Educating consumers is the best thing we can do to inform our consumers that the eating quality of the potato is not affected at all by its appearance.”
Pemberton grower Glen Ryan — who recently invited Perth chefs to visit his farm — said potatoes which didn’t meet retail standards were either left on the ground or fed to dairy cows.
Mr Ryan said growers faced increased pressure to meet standards. “
You get to a stage where you wonder if you can obtain those standards consistently and if you have a future in the industry,” he said.
“That’s the unseen side, people don’t talk about it.
“The bottom line is they’ve (retailers) got shareholder commitments and they’ve got to do the best they can for shareholders.”
Middlesex grower Bob Pesotto said over the past decade products which provided an alternative to potatoes and other carbohydrates had “forced” growers to “produce this nice white, perfect potato.”
“But retailers believe consumers want that potato and it is the only potato that sells,” he said.“However, if there was enough demand from the consumers, the trend would change.”