Grant helps industry being mashed

Talitha WolfeAlbany Advertiser

A State Government grant will be the saving grace for the local potato industry, which was forced to downsize its operations after the tomato potato psyllid was discovered near Perth 12 months ago.

In what was regarded as one of the State’s most serious biosecurity incidents, the discovery of the pest led to the closure of interstate borders for export.

Local seed potato grower Colin Ayres was forced to dump a 1500-tonne stockpile of seed potatoes, worth about $750 a tonne, last year.

In a bid to help sustain the industry, Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan has announced a $742,000 investment to boost exports of Western Australian potatoes to overseas markets.

Mr Ayres’s business GP Ayres & Sons, is one of four to receive $200,000 in funds under the Potato Industry Assistance Grants program.

“The potato farmers in WA really have been hit very hard by these losses and we want to give them some confidence and some ability to make some investment at this time so that they are ready to seize these new opportunities that we are working very hard to secure,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Mr Ayres’ son Chris said the grant would be used to upgrade equipment to a high-performance intelligent optical sorter that used imaging technology to improve sorting and grading.

The technology is considered to be the first of its kind for the WA potato industry.

“This will help our produce be higher quality and be delivered to the commercial grower a lot sooner than what we can currently do,” Chris Ayres said.

“This will mean it will be a better outcome for Western Australian growers, for Eastern States growers and export growers.

“Consistency has always been a big thing for a lot of our larger commercial growers. They want really consistent well sized potatoes for their operation.”

Mr Ayres said by using this new technology, production would be able to double when the Eastern States borders reopened.

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