Home NewsAustralia Hot chips back on the menu as potato shortage eases, but for how long?

Hot chips back on the menu as potato shortage eases, but for how long?

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Hot chips back on the menu as potato shortage eases, but for how long?

Customers ought to see extra potato merchandise in grocery store freezers within the coming weeks as chip factories function at capability to fulfill demand, however the business warns one other scarcity may very well be on the horizon.

Moist climate and fewer potato imports in 2022 resulted in empty frozen chip cabinets in supermarkets throughout the nation and making an attempt instances for fish and chips retailers, however growers say the present potato harvest ought to quell the short-term demand.

Potato harvests are underway in Tasmania and Victoria, Australia’s largest manufacturing areas for French fries.

Processing firms Simplot and McCain have opened up their factories in each states, turning spuds into chips for quick meals retailers, meals service and supermarkets.

However some growers warn that smaller plantings and decrease yields might see a repeat of the potato scarcity once more subsequent 12 months.

truck with potatoes
A semi-trailer laden with Tasmanian potatoes, recent out of the bottom.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

Potato harvests are underway

The harvest has been sluggish and staggered to kick off.

That is primarily as a result of the truth that potato plantings have been interrupted by wet weather in spring last year.

Head of the Tasmanian Simplot potato grower committee Leigh Elphinstone mentioned a workforce of backpackers, Pacific Island staff and locals have been selecting, and the harvest was trying good with the numbers of “reject” potatoes low.

a big harvested full of potatoes with people sorting through them
Sorting by the spuds in Northern Tasmania.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

“I’d say hopefully quickly that the chip scarcity will certainly ease … and the factories can meet up with their orders and provide,” Mr Elphinstone mentioned.

Katherine Myers stands in front of a potato field.
Katherine Myers says new season potatoes are in.(ABC Information: Billy Cooper)

Vice chairman of horticulture for the Victorian Farmers Federation, Katherine Myers agreed.

“The factories [in Victoria] are up and operating with potatoes from South Australia and the Victorian/New South Wales Riverina space,” she mentioned.

“The Victorian Central Highlands [around Ballarat] will begin coming within the subsequent month or so.

“We should always begin to see improved availability of chips in fish and chip retailers, and on the cabinets because the harvest progresses.”

One other scarcity looms

Each farmers, nonetheless, have a warning.

Mr Elphinstone mentioned there may very well be one other scarcity of chips on the horizon.

“As a result of there’s a smaller quantity planted than desired, I would not be stunned if there’s going to be the identical chip scarcity for subsequent 12 months,” he mentioned.

Ms Myers mentioned the business “will not be again to regular for a good whereas, and complete yields are anticipated to be down this 12 months.”

“European provide will not choose up till after their subsequent summer time, and given the extreme climate New Zealand has seen, I do not think about their yield has been phenomenal this 12 months.”

Whereas the potato varieties wanted for frozen chip processing chip have been in brief provide, there hasn’t been a scarcity of types offered as recent potatoes.

Area to play or pause, M to mute, left and proper arrows to hunt, up and down arrows for quantity.
Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 43 seconds

Potato chip scarcity hits Australia’s eating places and pubs.

The import-export recreation

Ausveg’s Shaun Lindhe mentioned that at present, imports have been not filling the hole.

Whereas imports of frozen potatoes went up barely in 2022, there may be nonetheless a niche within the frozen chip market as a result of drop in native manufacturing.

He mentioned it was a niche that might not be stuffed by extra imports, as European and US potato manufacturing had been affected by drought.

In 2022, 155,511 tonnes of frozen/preserved potatoes and 68 tonnes of dried potatoes have been imported into Australia, whereas 13,793 of frozen/preserved potatoes have been exported.

Some fresh potato chips straight off the factory line.
Scorching chips, again on the menu however for a way lengthy?(ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan)

Nonetheless catching up

The 2 large potato processors McCain and Simplot mentioned 2022 was a difficult rising 12 months, however present harvests have been going properly.

two packets of frozen chips
Frozen chips processed by Simplot and McCain in north-west Tasmania(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

McCain mentioned yields have been good, and their processing crops throughout Australia have been working at full capability.

Nonetheless, the corporate warned there have been nonetheless challenges forward, with a simultaneous improve in demand for frozen fries coinciding with lowered provides.

Simplot’s Ulverstone chip manufacturing unit is working at capability and has processed about 28,000 tonnes of potatoes to date this 12 months.

The corporate mentioned the early indicators have been that it could have an inexpensive harvest in 2023.

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