Potato growers in Western Australia are becoming increasingly concerned over a potential outbreak of potato cyst nematode. Negotiations between Western Potatoes, the Potato Growers of WA Association and the Canning Vale potato crisp maker Smiths came to a halt without any resolution two months ago.

The potato growers are sceptical about Smiths' commitment to keeping potentially harmful potatoes out of the region, and have offered the company a guaranteed supply of local potatoes during the September-November period when stocks are low in Western Australia.

However, Smiths rejected this offer. The company is doubtless cynical as to the growers' motive, perhaps suspecting them of simply trying to protect their market by keeping potatoes from the Eastern states out. Jim Turley of the WA Potato Growers said he hoped a return to the negotiating table could be achieved.

Potato Cyst Nematode has occurred in Victoria in the past and is extremely hard to contain. If a case was imported into the WA region, it could decimate the local industry, as an exclusion zone of 20km would need to be set up.