SA consumers and fast food outlets are being encouraged to support local growers when buying processed potato products, even if overseas product may be cheaper.
The push comes following the threat of a potential mass dumping of cheap frozen potato chips from Europe onto Australian markets, which could potentially flood overseas markets, including Australia, at prices up to 80pc below market price.
Ausveg has raised concerns about the situation, having recently written to several cabinet ministers and a broad group of elected officials, requesting enactment of short-term measures to limit the importation of heavily discounted frozen potato chips from the EU.
Ausveg is also working with major potato processors McCain Foods and Simplot, as well as other industry bodies, and has raised concerns with the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, and is investigating options through the Anti-Dumping Commission.
About 65pc of Australian-grown potatoes go into processing, with about 150,000t of processed product grown in SA.
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Ausveg SA state manager Jordan Brooke-Barnett said it was "the right time" to strongly promote the country of origin labelling scheme to ensure local growers were supported.
"If you can have a strong labelling system, it is a good defence," Mr Brooke-Barnett said.
"If you get an influx of product, it is going to have an impact, but if it's estimated to lead to a 40pc decline (in sales of local product) we want to turn that into a 20pc decline.
"There will always be the consumer who goes for a special, but we need to get the message out there to support Aussie farmers, and I think now with COVID-19 there is recognition that it isn't business as usual, and we do need to support our Australian farmers."
Mr Brooke-Barnett urged fast food outlets to buy local processed product as well.
If the country has to go into lockdown again, what is grown here is going to be vital to keep everyone going.
"Fast food restaurants buy a great proportion of frozen french fries in Aus, and if they came on board an said they want to support Australian growers, that would be a very powerful thing and hopefully a leading move," he said.
Mr Brooke-Barnett said there were differing levels of concern through the potato industry.
"(A potential glut) won't likely affect this year's contracts, because the processing industry is contracted to a greater degree than other areas of horticulture, but we really have to focus on flow-on effects of next year's season," he said.
"I think it's fair to say there's going to be some degree of impact next year, and SA is a major producer of processed potatoes, so we have to be a bit concerned."
SA grower worried about potential knock-on effects
BALHANNAH potato grower Mike Altmann said he was concerned about a potential influx of processed potato product from overseas, especially if dumped product continued over multiple seasons.
"Once you open that gate to cheap imported product, if that keeps coming, who knows the effect it could potentially have in the future," he said.
"If this happens, but is a one-off, we'll ride it out and see what happens on the other side, but if it keeps going, that's when it could be quite catastrophic to a lot of people."
Mr Altmann grows about 250 tonnes of kennebec potatoes annually, which are supplied via Cons Select Potatoes to chip shops throughout Adelaide.
He was concerned a glut of imported overseas product could potentially send local growers broke, which would strain food security in the future.
"If the country has to go into lockdown again, what is grown here is going to be vital to keep everyone going," he said.
"So we must support local growers, to allow us to stand up and be able to provide if (a lockdown) was to happen again."