Seed potato industry recovers on Kangaroo Island

Watch the potato harvest on Kangaroo Island...

Kangaroo Island's seed potato industry is still recovering a year-and-a-half on from the bushfires with growers working together to overcome infrastructure shortfalls.

All six of the Island's seed potato producers were hit to some degree by the disaster.

Grower Richard Trethewey is making his packing sheds available for two other KI spud growers, who lost their sheds in the fires, but it's making it for a crowded facility.

"It was a genuine gesture for recovery, and there's no commercial arrangement," Mr Trethewey said.

"What we did need is some recovery assistance to come this way to facilitate the processing to continue but there has been very little of that."

Among those using the packing shed is Peter Lock, who lost his home, shed and equipment at Turkey Lane.

Mr Lock leases a large potato growing paddock from the Tretheweys and also leases paddocks elsewhere on the Island.

He is frustrated that the lack of labour and housing on the Island is impacting on his rebuilding plans, as well as his ongoing farming operation.

He did relay his frustration to the bushfire recovery program and business advocate Sue Arlidge.

Federal Member Rebekha Sharkie has now pledged to look into the issues.

KI producers are significant contributors to the Australian potato industry due to the Island's stringent biosecurity protocols.

Kangaroo Island is the ideal location for seed potatoes because its isolation means it's disease free and its potatoes can be shipped worry free around Australia.

Mr Lock grows 81 different lines or varieties of spuds, although he said there now around 600 varieties worldwide.

KI potato farmers did receive help from Potatoes South Australia last year, when it shipped more than 500 replacement wooden potato bins for some growers.

South Australia is Australia's largest producer of certified seed. Mainland SA growers produced about 27 per cent of the nation's seed potato requirements, and the Island produces 16 per cent independently of that.

For Mr Lock, it's been a long road since the fires came out of the bush and timber plantations, taking pretty much everything he owned.

The fire not only took the shed, empty bins and full bins of potatoes, his packing and cool rooms, forklift, trucks and farm machinery, it also destroyed his own house and the backpacker accommodation.

One silver lining is that he has been able to clear some of those burned trees from around his Turkey Lane property.

And the materials for his rebuild have started showing up, so now he just needs to build it.


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