Influx of potatoes from Europe could 'decimate' NZ industry

A potato glut in Europe has the industry here worried that frozen fries could soon be dumped in New Zealand, flooding the market and putting hundreds of Kiwi jobs at risk.

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The industry is calling on the Government to intervene. Source: 1 NEWS

The industry is calling for emergency intervention from the Government to put the brakes on a French fry invasion, but it's so far refusing to do so.

If Europe dumps their cheap chips here in New Zealand, it could seriously hurt farmers like Tim Pike.

"Worst case scenario it's not viable for us to grow potatoes next year," he says. 

Lockdowns across Europe have led to a huge overstock of potatoes with nowhere for them to go. 

Belgians have been told to double down on fries, but even that can only help so much. 

Now processors are looking to dump their excess stock down under to ease the load.

Potatoes New Zealand’s CEO Chris Claridge says an influx in overseas potatoes would “decimate our industry.”

"Australia, South Africa and now the New Zealand industry very concerned about what we are facing. Which is literally a tsunami of heavily subsidised, discounted frozen fries heading our way.” 

Around 15 per cent of all fries in New Zealand are imported, but if that surges local growers will struggle to compete and essentially be setting off a domino effect.

"We have some 400 people directly employed by processors and if those processors aren't frying potatoes, they don't have jobs," says Mr Claridge. 

The potato industry says Europe isn't playing fair and wants the Government to put a temporary ban on frozen fry imports.

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi says he is keeping an eye on things, but the industry wants action.

However, trade experts say it is difficult to act before the dumping has happened.

"Nothing can be decided overnight, there has to be an investigation, there has to be a public process and we have to prove there is a risk to New Zealand industry," says expert Charles Finny.  

But growers and processors fear the damage could already be done by the time protections are in place.