Home' Grower : April 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- April 2012
By LIZ COTTON
POTATO grower Terry
Buckley says there is
enormous potential for
the horticulture industry in the
South East, but the high
Australian dollar and increased
imports are putting huge
pressure on growers.
"We have so much potential
here with our ideal climate, but
we aren't seeing a lot of new
people entering the industry
because of the dollar and
competition with other
countries," he said.
Mr Buckley says there is
increasing potential for Australian
horticulture and potatoes in Asia.
"Asia has always wanted to buy
our product -- they know it is the
best, but it is just too dear. Our
input costs are huge compared
with other countries. In the
United States, there are people
prepared to work for $8 an hour,
but in Australia, they don't get
less than $20," he said.
"We also face much higher
duty than other countries. For
example, I had a South Korean
delegation visiting recently and
they are very keen to buy our
product, but the US recently
signed a free trade deal and we
have a product that is already
more expensive, with a 30 per
cent duty on top of that.
"One advantage we will always
have, however, is our ability to
supply fresh potatoes from January
through until at least May, which
countries like the US cannot do."
Mr Buckley says that despite
the challenges, he is optimistic
about the future for Australian
"The Indonesian crisping
market alone is growing by 30pc
every year. They are tr ying to
grow some of their own product,
but they don't have as suitable a
climate as ours," he said.
The Buckleys have been
growing potatoes for
generations, first in the Adelaide
Hills and now in the South East.
Along with his family, Mr
Buckley runs J&FL Buckley and
Sons -- a diversified 1600-hectare
operation comprising potatoes
and prime lambs at Mingbool,
north of Mount Gambier.
"I think we've got the business
to the right size. We produce on
average 18,000 tonnes a year as
well as seed potatoes -- all at a
contracted price that we
negotiate, " Mr Buckley said.
"There is not a huge margin,
but with increased yields -- which
we are continually improving --
we can make slow but steady
Varieties grown include
Shepherdie, Russet Burbank,
Ranger Russet and Innovator
grown for McCain's, and Altantic,
Sonic, FL1867 and FL2027
grown for the crisping industry,
along with other varieties grown
for seed. The ideal commercial
size range is between 65
millimetres and 90mm.
The year ahead is promising to
be an improvement on the past
"Last year was a disaster and
we're still feeling some of the
effects -- the seed was damaged
by the wet and has been harder
to get because all regions were
affected," Mr Buckley said.
"Weeds have also been a big
problem this year from all the
rain we had, but overall, we have
managed a nice crop."
The operation's fertiliser costs
also exceed $1 million annually.
But Mr Buckley has been able to
save money and, in turn, increase
productivity through two main
areas -- building and maintaining
his own machinery, and increasing
yield through adopting new
varieties and growing techniques.
Along with his family and staff,
he has built five har vesters, each
an improvement on the previous
"By building and developing
our own machines, we are able
to customise them, repair them
on-site, and become much more
efficient, saving ourselves a lot
of money in the process," he
The ability to customise their
machinery has also meant the
Buckleys have been able to
increase their plantings from four
rows to six rows and undertake
"In the forty years I have been
growing potatoes, I have seen
our productivity increase
dramatically. We have developed
our operation to such a level that
we are able to get more done in
just one day now than in our
entire season's work forty years
ago," Mr Buckley said.
The Buckleys' operation
also has 20,000 cross-
bred sheep, including
by Mr Buckley's
"I am very proud to be
farming in this region.
There are a lot of people
out here having a go and
achieving some great things,"
Mr Buckley said.
Mr Buckley says he is also
proud of his working team. He
has used Labor Hire in the past
and often has backpackers from
Germany or France working on
tractors, or caravanning couples
taking care of upkeep and
"It's a system we've used for a
long time and it works
particularly well," he said.
"I like to give young people a
chance, and in return they repay
us with loyalty and a good work
Growers feel pressure from
Profits eroded by production
Promising signs for Asian
Potato grower Terry Buckley sorting the spuds by size and quality. Those
that don't make the cut are used for stock feed.
Custom-built machines spur growth
Nathan: 0408 633 661
Nathan: 0408 633 661
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