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Cheap European frozen chips are being dumped on NZ market, says potato industry

Fears that cheap European frozen chips could be dumped on the New Zealand market are being realised, according to the potato industry.

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It’s calling for tariffs to protect Kiwi growers and their jobs. Source: 1 NEWS

It says there's evidence of increased volume of fries from Belgium and the Netherlands and wants duties imposed on the foreign goods.

Europe has a 2.6 million tonne glut of potatoes caused by weeks of lockdown.

Potatoes New Zealand has assessed trade data which shows Europe is casting off its excess down under, with exports to New Zealand up about 50 per cent.

“There’s a significant amount of inventory of frozen fries sitting there that could basically wipe out our entire domestic industry almost overnight,” said Potatoes New Zealand CEO Chris Claridge.

He said that could cause job losses at New Zealand’s five potato processors, where 450 people are employed.

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European potato glut has NZ growers worried cheap frozen fries could flood our market

The owner of Far North fish and chip shop, Calypso Takeaways, told 1 NEWS he’d recently been offered Dutch fries from a distributor.

"They were trying to sell them at a discounted rate and it said on the box, product from the Netherlands, and I've never seen these chips on the market before," said Rob Smith.

Fifteen per cent of all fries eaten in New Zealand are imported. Potatoes New Zealand said the flood of foreign chips are significantly discounted, between 20 per cent and 40 per cent cheaper than Kiwi fries.

“So you will get cheap chips for a period of time and then when the domestic producers are wiped out, I will guarantee you the price will go up,” said Mr Claridge.

Potatoes New Zealand has filed a complaint of dumping with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It’s also applied for tariffs to be imposed on the imports.

The ministry will now consider if there are grounds for an investigation. An investigation could take up to 270 days but provisional measure can be imposed earlier if necessary.

Only once growers and processors have established their livelihoods have suffered harm will duties be imposed.

But one trade expert said tariffs could ruffle feathers.

"We are right now negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU and the EU may not like it, so it could be a complication in terms of that negotiation,” said Charles Finny.

Growers and processors are urging haste to save the $1 billion industry.