Retail spud mark-up 10,000%

POTATO GROWERS are appealing for major processors and fast-food chains to reconsider the price they are paying to farmers as some consider swapping crops. Last week Simplot growers rejected the latest offer saying it didn’t cover their ever-rising costs and would force some to reconsider their future growing spuds.

Gawler farmer John McKenna took aim at multinationals such as the giant fast-food chains who use Tasmanian grown potatoes for their French fries. “I get 37c a kilo ($370) per tonne,” Mr McKenna said. “McDonald’s chips went up 25c this week to $4 large serve, they’re selling their chips for over $30,000 per tonne. “There has to be someone making a lot of money in between the farmer and the consumer because they’re the ones getting ripped off.

Mr McKenna grew about 5000 tonnes of potatoes last season and says the input costs are beginning to make growing potatoes unsustainable. “Back in 2012 69% of growing total expenses would be consumed by costs which left us with 31% profit.

“In 2022 we would need an $136/ tonne price rise to maintain that 31%. “The problem is there just isn’t the reward for risk on the back of an average season last year.” He said the reality for many was that potatoes might not be planted. “We’ve got leased ground that we won’t grow spuds on if the price doesn’t go up significantly,” Mr McKenna said.

“Places where we need to use diesel pumps will be too expensive and fertilizer costs are blowing out. “Two or three cents from those profits coming back to the growers would make a significant difference. “For them there is no risk at all. “Their only concern should be running out of potatoes because we can’t afford to grow them.”

There has been an outpouring of support for growers with other farmers speaking out on behalf of growers, who are restricted from talking publicly and often won’t speak out for fear of consequences for their contracts. Farmers believe the average shopper probably didn’t realise how little farmers were paid and what the profit margins of bigger companies were.

Several people commented on Tasmanian Country’s facebook page saying they backed the potato growers in their fight and urging the farmers to stick together and not back down. “Good stuff farmers. No point working 24/7 to go broke. It’s a lot slower process if we do nothing and grow nothing,” wrote Lily Hofman. “No doubt they want to squeeze the Australian growers out of the business and import them from the US,” Douglas Higgins wrote. “Stick together and don’t grow for them until they pay what’s fair,” said another reader. Others suggested farmers sell directly to spud lovers. “Farmers should start coops, cut out the middle men,” one wrote. “I would prefer to buy directly from the farmers, as a farm hand for the last 12 months I see the work that goes into growing,” Tina Ahdore said. “There is so much going on behind the scenes to get this crop ready to sell to these greedy companies who offer little for all the work, man hours and fertliser. Enough is enough,” she said.