Humble spud back in flavour

The humble spud is regaining ground on the back of a marketing blitz launched after it fell out of favour with WA households.

Potato Marketing Corporation executives took action to stop the rot after home consumption in WA plunged by 20 per cent from 2002 to the start of last year.

The industry set out to change negative perceptions and the campaign appears to be paying dividends. The number of WA households buying potatoes was up 6 per cent in the last quarter of 2013 compared to the same period 12 months earlier.

PMC marketing manager Paul Graham said consumption had started falling at a rate of about 5 per cent a year as young consumers abandoned potatoes.

"Consumers have wrongly thought that fresh potatoes are too inconvenient to cook or bad for them," he said.

"Our research shows that, on average, people under the age of 40 eat 30 per cent less potatoes than those over the age of 40."

Potato Growers Association of WA president Dean Ryan said the trend was of concern for WA growers, who generated sales revenue of $36.37 million in 2012-13.

"The worry we had looking forward was that younger people were hardly eating a spud and as they got older it was only going to get worse for us," Mr Ryan said.

"It would be a great shame if 10 years down the track the families of that younger generation were not eating spuds. We'd be selling less and people would miss out on the nutritional benefits."

Mr Ryan, who with his brother Glen runs one of WA's biggest potato farms at Pemberton, said growers had backed a long-term plan to boost sales.

The $1.8 million grower-funded campaign aimed at lifting local annual consumption by 10,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes over three years was launched last year.

High-profile grower Tony Galati - who settled a long-running dispute with the PMC last year - said while sales were up, prices had trended down.

The Economic Regulation Authority is considering the PMC's future as part of an inquiry into microeconomic reform in WA.

The industry remains heavily regulated under the Marketing of Potatoes Act of 1946.

And Mr Ryan said "99 per cent of growers" wanted it to stay that way because it created stability.

The West Australian

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