Smithton protesters rally against flood of European potato chips

Smithton farmers and factory workers rally to protest impending flood of European potato chips

Photos
United: Potato growers Codie, Nevaeh and Tyson House joined the rally from a safe distance, showing their support for both farmers and local factory workers. Picture: Brodie Weeding

United: Potato growers Codie, Nevaeh and Tyson House joined the rally from a safe distance, showing their support for both farmers and local factory workers. Picture: Brodie Weeding

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"We do need help, because we do the best we can growing the potatoes."

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RAIN and social distancing did little to dampen the outrage of a group of protesters at Smithton's McCain factory recently.

Potato farmers, factory workers and politicians rallied at the main gate to protest a proposal from the European Union, which would see millions of tonnes of unsold fries flooding the Australian market.

Circular Head's Tyson and Codie House grow about 2000 tonnes of potatoes for both McCain and Simplot, and showed up to support the rally from a COVID-safe distance.

Mr House said potato farmers were worried about competing with the cheaper imports, but found it difficult to voice their concerns.

"What does the government want us to do? They'd be better to use our potatoes first and then use (the Europeans) ones," Mr House said.

"It's good (the politicians) are on our side. We do need help, because we do the best we can growing the potatoes. We're not trained to rally."

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Ms House said the last season of wet weather had been particularly difficult for growers.

"The potatoes are good ... but it's hard to get the trucks and machinery into paddocks because it's so wet," she said.

"It's slow digging ... and (McCain don't like taking them when they're dirty because they're hard to store."

Mixed crop farmer Phil Medwin also supplies potatoes to McCain, and said the potato industry was one of the main agricultural industries in the North-West behind beef and dairy.

"It's important to rally behind these things ... it's my livelihood," he said.

"We want to see a louder voice, we want to see (the federal government) having an opinion."

He said the cost of growing potatoes in Tasmania could not compete with Europe.

"Tasmania's not a huge grower of potatoes on a global scale ... so you've got to protect smaller industries," he said.

"Their government subsidises the farmers We don't we get fuel subsidies but they don't cover out growing costs."

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Circular Head mayor, Daryl Quilliam, and state politicians from both major parties managed to find common ground at the rally, uniting in a bid to lobby the federal government to support local industry.

"It's not right, and it's not fair," said Labor MHA Shane Broad.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said he remembered the last time he had stood in the same spot for a rally about 20 years ago.

"The times are different," he said, referring to the limits on numbers and social distancing at the rally.

"But the fight is the same. That is to support and protect the industry that we value.

"We stand in unity today to take that fight to the federal government ... This dumping is against the law."

The story Smithton protesters rally against flood of European potato chips first appeared on The Advocate.

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