NZ: pest costs potato industry US$101M - FreshFruitPortal.com

NZ: pest costs potato industry US$101M

New Zealand's peak potato body has announced the tomato potato psyllid pest has cost the industry NZ$120 million (US$101.5 million) since its discovery in 2006.

Potatoes New Zealand business manager Ron Gall, said the figures were calculated based on yield impacts and the costs of extra insecticides, spray applications, seeds, monitoring and compliance.

"The New Zealand industry simply can't afford to continue to absorb this scale of damage. Unless we get help to fund research on a solution to this problem, some growers will exit the industry and processors may have to close their doors," he said.

"The cost of psyllid to our industry alone last year was (NZ)$28 million (US$23.68 million) or 20 per cent of the value of industry at the farm gate."

Chairman Terry Olsen said New Zealand's potato industry was 'on the cusp of crisis'.

"In total, Potatoes New Zealand has spent or committed about (NZ)$1.3 million (US$1.1 million) since the beginning of 2008 and quite frankly we have no more money to spend," he said.

"We have received significant assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Sustainable Farming Fund in addition to Plant and Food Research but more help is needed."

The plant-eating insect transmits a disease which causes leaf yellowing, brown markings and plant death, with a 'zebra chip' symptom in cooked potato tubers.

Photo: Shaun Bennet, Biosecurity New Zealand

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