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TAS Country : September 23rd 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010 Tasmanian Country 3 News NEW LIFE: TIAR marketing and business development officer David Wells holds Ida Rose and Delaware potatoes near Burnie. Picture: CHRIS KIDD King Edwards set to rule paddocks again JENNIFER CRAWLEY Continued page 6 Our potato farmers that grow for Simplot and McCain for Coles and Woolies get about 20c a kilo. We want to get premium price for premium product.' DAVID Wells has a vision of long-lost Tasmanian potatoes growing in paddocks that were once sown with McCain spuds. King Edward, Up to Date, Pink Eye, Brownell, Tasman, the original Dutch Cream, Cranberry Red, Pink Fir Apple, Sequoia, Cariboo, Crystal, Patrones, Delaware, Liseta, Gold Rush, Tolass, Ida Rose, Fonenot, Manistay and Ruby Lou potatoes have come to life in a boutique and heritage potatoes project led by Mr Wells at the Cradle Coast campus of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Research in Burnie. A project he hopes will bring back life to the abandoned paddocks of the north. Hundreds of potato cuttings were found in petrie dishes in a Devonport coolstore during the changeover from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment to TIAR. Some of them had been there for years, said Mr Wells. ''We went through the 100 potatoes that have been shelved for many years down in Devonport,'' Mr Wells said. ''We narrowed it down to 20 varieties, gave them the seed and they ploughed a couple of rows each.'' The farmers reported the potatoes grew well and they would be happy to grow them commercially. ''Our potato farmers that grow for Simplot and McCain for Coles and Woolies get about 20c a kilo,'' Mr Wells said. ''We want to get premium price for premium product.'' Mr Wells said there are niche markets for niche potatoes and farmers could supplement their losses by selling to grocery stores and independent chains like IGA. ''There's about 3000ha of land just sitting there doing nothing at the moment, it's been disenfranchised,'' he said. McCain savages spud price JENNIFER CRAWLEY TASMANIAN potato growers have been forced to accept a crippling price cut from multinational processor McCain in Smithton. Growers say the break-even price of about $256 a tonne could force many farmers out of potatoes and possibly out of the industry. McCain contract growers this week accepted a cut of $26.50 a tonne --- their second cut in two years --- after McCain held out until growers with crops already planted had little choice but to concede. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graz- iers Association said the price meant the 50 growers would barely cover their production costs and there would be no margin for error. TFGA potato committee chairman Daryl Lohrey said: ''The size of this decrease is disappointing, but it is the best we could negotiate.'' TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said that in continuing to produce potatoes for McCain, farmers faced a substantial gamble. ''What our farmers are being asked to do is to ride out this adverse market situation in the hope that better years are ahead. That is a tough call,'' Ms Davis said. Mr Lohrey and Ms Davis said Tasmanian growers wanted a long- term, sustainable Tasmanian potato industry in which they received a decent price, processors got their mar- gin and consumers knew they were consuming Australian-grown potatoes. Sassafras grower Scott Elphingstone said he had halved his crop he was so disgusted by the McCain price. The northwest farmer, who has been growing potatoes since he left school 18 years ago, said he had no concerns about speaking out against McCain. ''The price is that bad I'm not too concerned,'' he said. ''I've chosen this year to halve my contract because the profit margin is so narrow you need a good yield. ''They may as well take the industry and pack it up. ''If this is what the future holds for growing potatoes for McCains it will be my final year.'' McCain's lateness this year with its contracts was the only reason he was growing for them, Mr Elphinstone said ''They left it so late they haven't given growers opportunities to grow other things,'' he said. Mr Elphinstone said he has diversi- fied over the years to compensate for the loss of crops. '' I lost all the vegetables last year and then I'm hit with the spud prices this year,'' he said. ''I've diversified away from cropping because I could see the pressure would be ongoing.'' Mr Elphinstone fattens cattle and grows poppies and other grain and has a contracting business. ''I think the direction the processing industry is heading towards a more a global market will make it difficult for Tasmania to compete,'' he said. ''I don't know what the future holds for Tasmanian McCain growers but I know it doesn't hold any future for me.'' 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