Australia Industry Has Ups, Downs

Published online: Sep 07, 2000
Australian potato growers are struggling like their counterparts over processing contracts, genetically enhanced varieties and packing plant closures.

Tasmanian growers reportedly have succeeded in negotiations with Simplot, which they say paid lower prices for export potatoes that didn't leave the Australian state.

There has been tension between the two sides over the issue. The growers said Simplot had agreed to reimburse them for the potatoes. Simplot agreed to compensate growers who harvest early to meet processor's demands.

Negotiations are continuing on the price Simplot will pay on additional tonnage required for next season.

One of South Australia's biggest potato growing and packing businesses is in liquidation. The move came after a major creditor of Sobeyco Pty. Ltd. called in the receivers after failing to receive payment for a large account. The company also owes farmers.

While in liquidation, the business was transferred to another operator just before receivers acted.

The Australia/New Zealand Food Authority has cleared three types of genetically modified potatoes for public use saying they are "no less safe" than conventional vegetables.

The potatoes have been modified to protect against insects, leafroll virus and potato virus-Y. They are used in chips, pretzels and other snack foods.

Critics immediately attacked the decision. "We are concerned that there have been no intergenerational animal studies," Bob Phelps, director of the lobby group GenEthics, stated.