Growers reject spud price

THE threat of a potato shortage looms in Tasmania after Simplot potato growers voted down the latest price offer.

More than 100 farmers rejected the latest pricing structures offered by processor Simplot for this season at a firey meeting at Deloraine this week. The move threatens to disrupt supply and see fewer potatoes planted in the future. Farmers are angry that prices still don’t cover their rising input costs.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association Simplot Potato Grower Committee chairman Leigh Elphinstone said the turnout at the meeting reflected the passion of the growers. “It was an extremely well attended meeting,” Mr Elphinstone said. “There was strong emotion in the room.”

The Simplot offer consisted of an $80-per-tonne increase on the base pricing and fertiliser levy. A $25-per-tonne one-off sign-up payment to be made in October was also offered to growers to be payable on contracted paid-weight tonnes. The meeting follows recent negotiations between the growers committee and the processor. “We’re facing the highest price structure we’ve ever faced growing potatoes,” Mr Elphinstone said prior to the negotiations. “There’s a fair bit of uncertainty and angst out there among growers about what the future holds.”

Negotiations will continue between growers and Simplot while growers still remain unconvinced by the prices offered. For some growers the current prices being offered are forcing them away from the crop this season. Farmers have previously told Tasmanian Country they are feeling the pain of a terrible spud season.

Last season’s price was negotiated by the farmers just before their main growing expenses of fertiliser and fuel went up by more than 50 per cent, along with just about every other input,” one farmer said. The chance of having a good crop next year has already been reduced for some as one processor has a percentage of seed for next season’s crop still in the ground – severely reducing quality.”

Farmers were being paid 32 cents per kilo in 2008-2009 and 13 years later and this amount has increased by just three cents per kilo to 35 cents per kilo. Growers say the costs of production have more than doubled since then and farmers are faced with shorter rotations, decreasing seed quality and massive shortages on chemicals used to treat seed which all lead to poorer yields.