Tasmania Shortage Due To Wet Spring

Published online: Nov 21, 2005 Alan Harman
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A wet spring has created a potato shortage on the Australian island state of Tasmania with fields too waterlogged to harvest.

Potatoes cannot be brought in from elsewhere in Australia because of Tasmania's strict import regulations.

Major supermarket chains have begun running out of potatoes and have been forced to put up signs on their stores' empty shelves advising shoppers of the situation.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association Vegetable Council executive officer Denis Leonard told reporters it was not yet known how low stocks were but there were few, if any potatoes,  in cold storage.

"It might depend from one supermarket to the next as to how much stock they have on hand, but certainly we are hearing that some have already run out," he said.

Leonard said the shortage was likely to worsen before supplies returned. "Paddocks are just too waterlogged, and growers can't get machinery on them, particularly larger machines," he said. "If it stopped raining tomorrow, it might take five-to-six days, but it could take between 10- and 14-days before things dry out enough."

Potato supplies are also down in Mainland Australia with the industry warning that as a result consumers will be paying more for washed potatoes leading up to Christmas.

A cold winter and floods that hit the Virginia horticultural district in South Australia has reduced supplies by 20 percent and pushed up prices to A$3 a kilogram.

Processor Zarella Holdings spokesman Clinton Zarella told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that South Australia is the country's biggest producer of potatoes and all consumers will be affected.

"What normally would happen is the price would start to decrease as we get closer towards Christmas," he said. "With the floods and with the weather situation we've had, what it will mean is the supply will stay low generally up to Christmas so the pricing will stay fairly strong."