Potato action group set up

23 April 1999

Potato action group set up

POTATO growers in East Anglia, who believe their crops were adversely affected last year after using Gambit fungicide, are forming an action group.

Sales of Gambit (fenpiclonil) were suspended by manufacturer Novartis last year after complaints that it was linked to uneven emergence. But the firm maintains it has found no product liability.

Involved in the action group is Cambridgeshire packer MBM Produce. Chris Marshall, the firms commercial agronomist, says several growers in the Southery area believe the fungicide delayed emergence and cut yields, in some cases by 35t/ha (14t/acre). In all, the group had about 340ha (800 acres) affected.

"We are disappointed with the response we have had from Novartis. They were initially contacted in May 1998 with our concerns," he says.

Mr Marshall estimates enough Gambit was sold last season to treat about 8,000ha (20,000 acres).

David Hudson, technical director at Sutton Bridge, says he examined a number of complaints last season. "The majority of them were not caused by the Gambit. But there was a hard core which probably were. Its strange because it was quite widely used in 1997 without any trouble."

Novartis spokesman Andy Pigott confirms that Gambit was withdrawn from the market last year after a small number of complaints. "It was a very cold and wet season," he says. "We decided to suspend sales while a thorough case-by-case investigation was undertaken. This is still on-going and so far we havent identified any product liability."

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