Costello Advocates For Tasmanian Growers

Published online: Jul 05, 2005
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Federal Treasurer Peter Costello will question McDonald's restaurant chain executives in Australia about their decision to source some of the company's potatoes offshore.

Richard Bovill, coordinator of the Fair Dinkum Food Campaign in Tasmania, said the treasurer listened intently to the farmers' concerns at a meeting with them and undertook to question the fast food chain on its decision-making process.

"I'd be quite happy to make the point to McDonald's that its Australian operation is going to get a lot more support from Australian consumers if it's using Australian product," Costello said. "I think that is one of the things they have to consider. We don't tell them where they have to source their product from, but we can make that point."

Tasmanian potato farmers are facing a crisis after processing company Simplot lost half of its McDonald's french fry contract - worth about A$50 million (US$37.5 million) to the state's economy. McCain Foods, which won the contract, will source some of its potatoes from New Zealand.

Bovill said growers at the meeting agreed to form focus groups to devise a comprehensive document to present to the treasurer in three weeks. He said he was confident the government would act to support the food industry.

"I sense in the treasurer's attention that he's concerned about Australian communities and the wellbeing of Australian communities and people, and that he does place a high importance on their wellbeing as opposed to the sheer greed of some large companies," Bovill said.

Premier Paul Lennon said he was hoping to speak with farmers by the end of this week to offer state goverment assistance.

"We are very supportive of the action the farmers are taking in Tasmania," he said. "I don't like any more than anybody else in Tasmania to think that New Zealand potatoes will be replacing Tasmanian potatoes in McDonald's outlets.
"I want to make sure the state government does everything it can to support Tasmanian growers."