A number of potato growers in the Australian state of Victoria were due to meet executives from a nation supermarket chain to discuss direct supply contracts.
The meeting later this month between the growers from the Thorpdale region and the Coles supermarket executives was arranged by federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran.
“Thorpdale growers have had a terrible year and can't afford another bad season," McGauran said. “Many have returns of below cost. They suffer the vagaries of fresh market forces and are looking at ways to redress what they see as an imbalance between buyers and sellers."
The growers now have to sell to Sydney wholesalers who then sell to northern retailers. As a result, the growers say, their returns have been as low as 15 cents a kilogram when supermarket prices averaged A$2.50 a kilogram.
Coles already buys 8,000 tonnes of potatoes from Thorpdale growers but that represents only 10 percent of the region's brushed potato output.
Growers said they were not expecting a successful outcome from the talks. They said similar talks with Safeway chain last year led to nothing.
"Direct contracts may not be on the cards in the immediate future, but they're our long-term goal," one grower said.
McGauran said the Thorpdale producers need to look at producing more fashionable potato varieties. "The Thorpdale growers say their brushed potatoes are more tasty but they've got a job to do to convince consumers," he said.