Published online: Aug 06, 2007 Alan Harman
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New Zealand horticulturalists have heard how United States potato growers are benefiting after forming the United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) co-operative to end internal competition dragging the industry into chaos.

UPGA acting chief executive Buzz Shahan told the Horticulture New Zealand annual conference in Christchurch that closer links between growers stopped the potato market from being oversupplied.

He says when the co-op was formed two years ago, growers were getting US $2 for 100 pounds of potatoes but now are averaging US $7.75.

Shahan said the U.S. industry was chaotic before the coop.

"It was open warfare between the regions and the growers within the regions," he said. "It was just a battle of economic attrition."

With the formation of the co-op, he said grower information was pooled from different states to give better access and management.

"When you provide a fellow with good information, unless he is a fool, he will act upon it, whether it is for buying a car or a sack of potatoes," Shahan said.

The market was left to do the price setting, he said, and the co-op set about controlling supplies with the co-op's management suggesting a supply figure and growers setting voluntary caps.

Shan said the UPGA uses GPS and satellite imaging to verify that growers have not exceeded the potatoes they promised to grow.

He said the best lessons that New Zealand growers could take from the U.S. experience was that good information changed behavior.

"When New Zealand growers have good market information they can make better market decisions," he said.