TASMANIAN potato farmers are hoping McCain Foods' $37 million investment into the Smithton processing facility will increase demand and raise prices.
The multi-national announced this month it would become the company’s primary retail french fry production facility in Australia and New Zealand.
Tasmanian McCain grower committee chairperson, Rob Bayles, said while it’s great to see McCain investing into the future, it’s important to remember the vast amount farmers independently invest.
“People need to remember it’s a two-sided thing and that farmers also need to be supported. We are currently growing potatoes for less than what we did 10 years ago," Mr Bayles said.
"It’s currently 31.7 cents per kilogram delivered to Smithton, 10 years ago it was closer to 35c.
“The growers would be over the moon to get 35 cents per kilogram. All we are looking for is a three cent per kilogram price increase.”
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Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association's vegetable council member, Nathan Richardson, said any investment in an agriculture process facility is good news.
“It will certainly quiet down the many years of doubt in the Smithton factory. It also shows that McCain finally recognises the product from Tasmania is second to none. I think growers should be very pleased to see this level of investment," Mr Richardson said.
“Tasmania is a good investment because of the soils the climate and the fact that we have a long harvest season.
"Unlike other parts in the world where they only have a matter of weeks, we can harvest potatoes for eight to nine months of the year.
“The world isn’t getting any bigger, and I really think the multinational companies are recognising Tasmania is a great place to grow sustainably and produce healthy food.”
While McCain’s Smithton plant has received several minor upgrades since it was first built by McCain in 1987, this is the most significant capital investment in the site to date.
The upgrade will start in April and is expected to be completed by January 2020.
McCain Foods’ managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Claudia Martinez, said the plant upgrade would be a significant boost for Smithton, its economy and Tasmania as a whole.
“This investment is a major vote of confidence in Smithton, our 95-strong workforce and the top quality products they manufacture every single day,” Ms Martinez said.
“Our potato plant is already one of Smithton’s largest employers and we are delighted to be in a position to further grow our Tasmanian footprint, increase production and create new jobs locally.”
- This story first appeared on The Advocate.