Supermarkets show colours on potato imports

Tasmanian supermarkets will not stock imported potatoes

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A conditional approval was granted to import SA spuds.

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Tasmanian supermarkets have thrown support behind the state's potato producers, confirming they will not stock imported potatoes.

A conditional import licence was approved in June for South Australian company Mitolo Group to import fresh potatoes into Tasmania.

However, the products will not end up on supermarket shelves.

Coles, Woolworths, and Island Fresh, which operates the IGA chain of independent supermarkets, on Monday confirmed they would not stock the imported SA potatoes in Tasmania.

A Coles spokesperson said the chain had no plans to change suppliers in light of the import approval.

"All fresh potatoes sold in Tasmanian Coles supermarkets are grown in Tasmania and supplied by three key suppliers. We are committed to supporting local farmers and have no plans to change this," the spokesperson said.

"Coles purchases around $400 million worth of food from Tasmanian farmers and producers every year."

Those purchases include $70 million worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, more than $180 million worth of meat and seafood, along with $6.5 million in cheese produced in Burnie and from King Island Dairy and $74 million worth of frozen vegetables from Simplot, which supplies all Coles brand frozen vegetables.

Farmers were stunned last week after the conditional approval was discovered during question time in Parliament.

Labor Primary Industries spokesman Shane Broad asked the question of Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett.

Dr Shane Broad.

Dr Shane Broad.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers vegetable council and potato producers have requested more information on conditional approval.

Potato producers were not consulted on approval before Friday last week, but representatives from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment met with the TFGA on Monday.

The department says the approval was in line with import requirements.

Island Fresh, which operates the independent chain of IGA supermarkets said it would always prioritise Tasmanian product.

"Island Fresh always purchases Tasmanian product over imported interstate produce," a spokesman said.

"We have a longstanding relationship with our supplier of potatoes and have no intention of changing that for the foreseeable future."

The spokesman said Island Fresh was proud to support Tasmanian growers and is looking forward to continuing it.

Woolworth vegetable manager Marie Gallagher said all fresh potatoes in its Tasmanian stores were locally grown.

"We have long standing relationships with our Tasmanian potato suppliers and don't have any plans to change our supply arrangements," she said.

Ms Gallagher said Woolworths would continue to support Tasmanian growers and communities through its local supplier partnerships across a range of produce.

The story Supermarkets show colours on potato imports first appeared on The Examiner.

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