[ASC-media] Speaker highlights from the Potato Industry Conference 2005 - For immediate release

Diana Wolfe (03) 9372 5305 diana at wolfewords.com
Mon Sep 19 07:28:24 EST 2005


Potato Industry Conference speaker highlights - for immediate release

Why consumers are confused about spuds!
- Research findings launched at Potato 2005

Coloured vegetables, especially green vegetables 
are perceived as having more nutritional value 
than white vegetables such as potatoes, according 
to Dean Harris of Market Equity Pty Ltd.

"The awareness of the nutritional value of 
potatoes is low, and if consumers were educated 
on nutritional value, use may increase," he said.

Market Equity recently completed a study on 
behalf of Horticulture Australia aimed at 
understanding consumer needs and perceptions with 
regard to potatoes.

The study shows that consumers have been 
receiving confusing and conflicting messages 
about the nutritional benefits of foods, 
especially potatoes. Dean believes the potato 
industry can capitalise on the survey's findings 
and influence consumer buying patterns, in part 
by producing clear nutritional information for 

Dean will outline other possible industry 
initiatives out of the survey at the launch of 
the study at Potato 2005, the Australian National 
Potato Conference.

Potato industry trends in the UK
- Lessons from one of UK's top three producers

Growers wanting to take control of their 
businesses to increase margins and reduce risk, 
need to be prepared to embrace innovation and 
change and question every cost in the entire 
supply chain.

This is the experience of the Higgins Group, a 
top-three potato business in the UK, marketing 
more than 300,000 tonnes a year to turn over 
about $A100 million.

David Higgins will outline his family company's 
business direction and experience at Potato 2005.

According to David, the Higgins group has driven 
change in their business during the recent era of 
industry restructure in the UK which has seen 42% 
of growers leave the industry in the past five 
years as the result of increased competition from 
EU imports and relentless downward price pressure.

Drivers for Potatoes and what the industry can do about them

The Australian Government's 'treasury line' on 
import controls has already hurt the clothing, 
shoes, car and steel sectors in Australia. The 
potato industry is also unlikely to be able to 
look to government policy for relief from an 
increasing onslaught of imports, according to 
Neville Norman, Economics Professor at the 
University of Melbourne, speaking at Potato 2005.

His view is the industry needs to take corrective 
action to stop local share losing out over 
imports. This may mean revisiting the four Ps of 
o	Product - quality and image
o	Price - what it would be if proper profit 
percents were put on efficient unit costs
o	Promotion of products to relevant buyers
o	Partnerships to improve buying economies, 
harvesting and distribution network.

Neville also argues that growers coming together 
to strategically plan an approach to government 
on labelling home-grown produce and imports is 
likely to receive a sympathetic ear from policy 

He will speak about the industry paying 
particular attention to the economic and other 
drivers they can influence on the road to 
improving market position.

National push to use recycled waste water in Horticulture

Using recycled waste water (treated sewage 
effluent) to irrigate parklands and golf courses 
is a little known but by no means new practice. 
It has happened for decades. However, using this 
water to grow fresh food crops is a relatively 
new concept for Australians. 

Since 2003, Daryl Stevens and Jim Kelly, as 
national coordinators for recycled water 
development in horticulture, have had the job of 
helping growers understand how to use this water 
to grow vegetables and other crops.

About 70% of Australia's drinking water is 
currently used for agriculture and other 
industries rather than for drinking, so it is 
critical that we replace this good drinking water 
with an alternative safe water supply.

Daryl and Jim's brief involves presenting the 
facts about reclaimed water and dispelling the 
hype or misinformation about its safety. Uptake 
of the new technology has been steady, Daryl said.

"This year, two new major schemes have been 
established in Victoria; the Eastern Irrigation 
Scheme and Werribee Irrigation District," he 
said. . 

"The Queensland Department of Sustainability and 
Development has also commissioned a business case 
to support supply of recycled water to growers of 
the Lockyer, Bremmer and Warrill Valleys. The 
Lockyer Valley Water Users Forum has signed a 
memorandum of understanding, for five years with 
Brisbane Water and Ipswich Council, for supply of 
25 GL per annum of reclaimed water.

"Clearly, industry recognises the value of a 
permanent supply of water of a guaranteed 
quality, to continue or develop their businesses. 
This has been shown through the increased demand 
for high quality recycled waste water since 
development of the Virginia Pipeline Scheme in 
South Australia in 1998."

Progress with new-look R&D

A new $14 million processing potato R&D program 
is the most strategic and ambitious the 
Australian processing potato industry has ever 
embarked on, according to Processing Potatoes 
Association of Australia President Paul Frost.

The research, which takes a different team 
approach and focuses tightly on specific issues, 
will have a higher probability of producing 
controls for long-standing diseases such as 
common scab, powdery scab, rhizoctonia and tomato 
spotted wilt virus.

These diseases represent the most significant 
production challenge to the industry in terms of 
damage and losses. Better management of diseases 
will lift processing yields and reduce costly 
wastage to improve industry competitiveness in 
the global market.

Paul will outline the program's unique structure 
and progress so far in his talk on the third day 
of Potato 2005, being held at Phillip Island.

Getting a fair go - progress towards a Horticulture Code of conduct

The draft mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct 
released in July by the Australian government 
faces opposition from wholesalers and doesn't 
meet the needs of either growers or wholesalers, 
according to speaker and CEO of AUSVEG, Euan 

"My view is it tries to be all things to all 
people and fails to address key concerns of the 
grower sector," Euan said.

In his talk, Euan outlines the background to the 
Australian government commitment to a mandatory 
code and work towards its implementation.

He details what growers want from the code, 
likely costs of implementation and puts a 'where 
to from here' scenario.

The future of our French Fries

The challenge for processing companies in 
Australia is to continue to increase their 
innovation in product development, especially in 
the area of 'healthier products', while being 
competitive on price in an increasingly 
globalised market place. 

This is the view of David Antrobus, Field Manager 
McCain Foods, who is addressing growers at Potato 
2005 this week.

David said recent years have seen good volume 
growth for the French Fry industry in Australia. 
However, recent trends show a significant 
increase in imported fries entering the 
Australian market, which has eroded our 
Australian volume being processed.

"Recent emphasis on encouraging healthier eating 
habits has focused the processing industry on 
producing a healthier product. For example, low 
cholesterol fries cooked in canola oil are 
gaining market share.

"The key challenges for the coming months/years 
here in Australia are for the potato processing 
companies to be innovative in product development 
while striving to be competitive in the face of 
increasing pressure from the globilisation of our 

David maintains this cannot be a long-term goal 
and that change has to happen quickly. His 
address looks at strategies to improve the future 
of the local industry.


Potato 2005 will be held at the Continental, 
Phillip Island, VIC, from Monday 19 September to 
Wednesday 21 September. Media are welcome to 
attend. Speakers are available for interview. For 
further information on media aspects or to 
arrange interviews, please contact:

Cathy Sage Ph: 0400 714 603; email: cathy at sagewords.com.au   

To access all media releases, hi-res and lo-res 
photos, go to: http://www.arris.com.au/~potato2005

For conference information, see website: http://www.spv.org.au

Wolfe Words
Writing, Editing, Publicity & Music

PO Box 1117
Kensington   Victoria   3031

Phone & fax: (03) 9372 5305
Mobile: 0419 547 270
Email: diana at wolfewords.com


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