Free Potatoes in Perth

For 3 days last week, Spudshed was giving away 200 tonnes of potatoes to the public in Western Australia. You read that right, free potatoes. With 50,000 of 4kg bags ready to be given out, there was enough for everyone who took the effort to turn up. While good bargains or special offers weren't uncommon in Singapore, I have yet to see a one at this magnitude. Consider this, those spuds were free for all to take, no accompanying minimum purchase condition and no strings attached. Some argued it was a publicity stunt. There were even who protested against the move, citing that such acts would sabotage small time growers by dragging the prices of potatoes down. What surprised me was that the owner of Spudshed will be facing the threat of possible prosecution for growing about 10% more than his allotted potato quota.

Uh? Quota?

I learnt something new again. In WA (and not the rest of Australia), there is an existing regulating body some called the "Ministry of Potatoes." or the Potato Marketing Corporation. When I read about that the first time, I thought it was a bloody joke. Prior to this, I thought the Overseas Singaporeans Unit (OSU) was the most inutile set up ever but this one probably tops it. However ridiculous it may sound, the Ministry of Potatoes is a powerful organisation backed by the Marketing of Potatoes Act of 1946. The act allows the WA Government to control who can grow potatoes, how many hectares can be planted and the varieties produced so that they can control supply to keep prices steady. Therefore the act allows the regulating body to search vehicles suspected of carrying more than 50kg of potatoes or restrict 'illegal' potatoes from entering the market, etc. Under the Marketing of Potatoes Act, Spudshed has committed at least 2 offences. First, as mentioned earlier, they grew 10% more than their quota set than the PMC. Second, they gave out the potatoes for free.

As for the PMC, they defended their importance by citing how they could help many small growers out there to survive. Consumers will also benefit by steady potato prices. Frankly speaking, I'm divided. I empathize with poor small potato farmers. If you are looking from a consumer's point of view, I know you wouldn't. However you'll be a bloody hypocrite if you support the Minimum Wage in WA at the same time. Think about it. Still, I couldn't accept the fact a grower has to destroy his potatoes instead of giving out for free to avoid prosecution. Yet I'm hearing about some so hungry that they have to rely on Centrelink. Or the world is short of farming land to produce enough food to feed the population. With more of such agencies around the world, I am not surprised.

Besides when I visited PMC's website [link], there was little mentioned about their nice vision nor did they bother to at least include a cheesy mission statement. All they seem interested is to get people to fill in forms. Still there is nothing much I hate more about filling forms, I'd say, screw these guys. If I were an Australian citizen, I'll vote for Labour just to support getting rid of these guys, alone.


  1. I assume that if one grows some potatoes in one's backyard for one's own family consumption, it is not regulated by the PMC?