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TAS Country : November 18th 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010 Tasmanian Country 3 News READY TO GO: Stewart McGee inspects his ploughed paddock. Picture: BRUCE MOUNSTER Tassie pea growers cop run-around HAPPY DAYS: All was sweet for Stewart McGee and his family in 2005. JENNIFER CRAWLEY Premier's enticement plan under fire PEA grower Stewart McGee has a simple message for Premier David Bartlett: Tasmania needs markets, not more farmers. Simplot pea farmers have been through the wringer this week. First they thought they had contracts, then were told they didn't have contracts, and finally they did have contracts. Mr McGee, the face of Sim- plot's frozen pea advertising cam- paign, had his contract reduced by 10ha last Friday -- the same day Mr Bartlett announced he was flying to Victoria to entice farmers from the Murray Goulburn region to farm in Tasmania. ''I was horrified when I listen- ed to the radio last Friday,'' Mr McGee said. ''What's going on, what's the point of all this? ''I really wondered why he was wasting his time going there. ''If he wants to do something, go over and help develop some markets.'' Farmers were called to an emergency meeting with Simplot on Friday afternoon and told the company would not be able to honour its pea contracts -- just as the growers were about to start planting. Simplot managing director Terry O'Brien apologised to growers, saying the company had lost one of its contracts to imported product. Mr O'Brien said growers would be compen- sated for the costs they incurred when preparing paddocks. However, on Wednesday growers were given a last-minute reprieve. ''The field officer rang and said head office had said 'Go ahead and plant','' Mr McGee said. ''It's good news, we've got our contract tonnage back.'' Simplot retail manager Gra- ham Dugdale said the situation with Tasmanian pea growers was ''very dynamic'' and the size of the reduction had not been decided. Mr Dugdale said the reason for a potential reduction in tonnage was increased competition from New Zealand suppliers and the weather. ''Harvest predictions are being affected by the rain that we have been receiving over the past three weeks,'' Mr Dugdale said. This year Mr McGee made a week-long visit to check out New Zealand pea growers. He said he fully understood the dynamics of the market after that trip. ''New Zealand is so competi- tive,'' he said. ''They had a huge pea harvest last year and they've got peas they need to move. ''It's very hard to process and store product to sell on spec at a later date.'' Mr McGee said many growers were questioning whether they would grow peas again. ''Peas are very important in a grower's rotation, but if you plan for them and don't put them in, it's worse than not having them in the rotation,'' he said. Peas provide one-third of the vegetable tonnage processed at Simplot's Devonport factory. Simplot is the only company that processes frozen vegetables in Australia. ''We should be able to capital- ise on that and have a future,'' Mr McGee said. The McGee family has been growing for Simplot for 35 years. A significant part of their yearly cropping income depends on their pea contract. The family has 52ha of ploughed paddocks ready for peas to go in. ''That's the worst thing -- there's no other paying crops or available contracts for us to use that ground once we've ploughed it,'' Mr McGee said. ''McCain closed last year and the pea industry is struggling -- the whole vegetable industry is. ''We need markets for what we grow. ''I don't think we need a rice farmer from the Murray coming over here to grow.'' Last week, Mr Bartlett said Tasmania had '' a great story to tell''. ''Right across Tasmania, water is being employed to create wealth, to create jobs, to create exports,'' Mr Bartlett said. 1300 654 142 www.polarisindustries.com.au BUY ONE GET ONE FREE# #Conditions apply. See www.polarisindustries.com.au for details. Offer ends 31/12/10 or while stocks last at participating Australian Polaris dealers. Excludes Fleet Buyers. Not valid with any other offer (except 2010 Ranger 500). For a limited time only, when you purchase a new Polaris ATV 549cc & above or Ranger 498cc & above at a participating dealer, you ll get an Outlaw 50 (value $2,395) for the kids FREE! If you don t want the Outlaw 50, take $2,395 off the price of any additional new Polaris vehicle.#
November 11th 2010
November 25th 2010