17 Nov 2009

NZ potato damage hits chip processors

9:35 am on 17 November 2009

Processors are considering importing potatoes to make into french fries, because much of the local crop has been damaged by a tiny insect pest.

The bacterium Liberibacter, spread by the potato-tomato psyllid, can cause abnormalities and lower yields in potato crops.

Growers cannot see the damage it is doing to the tubers when they're in the ground.

Potatoes New Zealand chairman Terry Olsen says the bacteria change the make-up of the potato, so that it absorbs fat quicker, burns more easily and does not cook as well as it should.

Mr Olsen says it appears the pest has spread across the country and is particularly bad in the North Island, where it's warmer.

He says the potato industry will continue research to find ways of dealing with the psyllid.