Spud farmers face a different problem than just coronavirus thanks to cold weather

A 20mm downpour in autumn is usually a cause for celebration for the region's potato farmers, but an upside-down summer ending with months of cool weather means, for many, this year's harvest is going to struggle to break even.

But while April rain is always welcome, the hot start and cool end to summer has meant crops are expected to be smaller, coming on top of the flow-on coronavirus impacts.


"A lot of people have been coming up to me saying with all the rain, you'd be laughing, but it's not the case. We won't get our money back out of it," Bungaree potato farmer Xavier Toohey said.

"If it's cool weather, say even up to 11am, you only get those few hours during the day of any heat. Spuds need warm weather, we just didn't have it this year when we needed it.

"What's going in to McCains looks good, but the yield won't be there this year."

Further north, Trentham's Alison Walsh says this year's crop will take longer to extract.

"We are slower, it's definitely going to be a later harvest than usual, probably towards the end of April before we get them out of the ground," she said.

"The other thing, is that we are not getting the same restaurant business as most of them have closed down or farmers markets are slowly being stopped due to social distancing.

"Perhaps in some way it's a small blessing that many are still in the ground as the business just hasn't been there.

"Potatoes are a great way to feed a lot of people. We might have to come up with a 101 ways to feed a family on potatoes or something like that."

Ms Walsh said one positive of the cool and wet end to summer had been the impacts on livestock.

"We were fortunate in that respect that we did get some rain over summer which has meant there is plenty of feed about," she said.

"We have sheep on our farm and so it's okay for fattening up the lambs. We had some very good prices earlier in the year."

On Thursday, The Federal Government announced a $110 million initiative to help Australia's agricultural and fisheries sector send product into overseas markets by securing dedicated freight flights.

The nation-wide International Freight Assistance Mechanism will allow key routes to continue for exports until commercial capacity returns.

State agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said the time was now to support farmers.

"Our farmers are producing plenty of food - there is no need to panic buy - and this will assist our primary producers to fill international orders, too," she said.

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