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Potato growers to receive extra AUS 9/tonne from Simplot Australia on the back of 'volatile' year

BORN AND BRED: Leigh Elphinstone has potatoes in his blood, taking over his family farm and continuing to grow for Simplot.

It's a risky crop, but Sisters Creek potato farmer Leigh Elphinstone wouldn't have it any other way. And the multi-generational farmer's passion for the simple spud seems to have paid off, helping secure growers like himself an additional AUS 9 a tonne deal with major food manufacturer Simplot Australia over the coming financial year.

Mr Elphinstone explained the rise had come about in order to match a rise in the growing costs, which would guarantee farmers a certain amount of profit per hectare of potatoes.
 
BORN AND BRED: Leigh Elphinstone has potatoes in his blood, taking over his family farm and continuing to grow for Simplot.

BORN AND BRED: Leigh Elphinstone has potatoes in his blood, taking over his family farm and continuing to grow for Simplot Australia.

Leigh Elphinstone:
 
"We made an agreement with Simplot last year to try and maintain our gross margin for growers. it had slid behind and potato growing wasn't really attractive a few years ago when it really slid down"

"The deal was important to try and attract more growers into producing the "risky" root, an important move as the nation's appetite for chips grew. It's an extremely high input crop."

"You outlay a lot of costs for six months before you get any return expensive machinery that is specialised only for potatoes. We've got a harvester, it will just sit there until March next year."


The price rise follows a tough season last year, when heavy rains made the grounds too soft to harvest the potatoes. It was an extremely tough season, a lot of growers lost a lot of tonnes they couldn't harvest. It was an extremely tough season, a lot of growers lost a lot of tonnes they couldn't harvest.

Growers spent all the money and grew the crop and got it to the point of harvest and then the wet weather came and they couldn't get them out. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost.As well as the price of fertiliser had made a "considerable jump" between July and August this year, prompting Simplot to give an additional AUS 4.50 fertiliser subsidy per tonne for this season.

Mr Elphinstone:
 
I was born and bred into potato growing. We've been Simplot our whole life. They're a really good company to negotiate with. They really understand the challenges potato farmers face, and including the fertiliser subsidy shows that."
Dane Smith Simplot Australia's executive director supply chain:
 
"The industry had been left to deal with significant complexity and volatility due to COVID-19. Skyrocketing fertiliser costs combined with other pressures are impacting growers."

"As a business, we recognise the need to work with and support our Aussie growers. From end to end, the industry must remain strong so that it is here for generations to come."

"To make this a reality, we must continue to work in partnership to ensure locally grown potatoes remain competitive on a global scale while also remaining a compelling farming option for our growers."
 
Trevor Hall chairman at Simplot Growers Group:
 
"Another area of concern for growers was the threat of pink rot, a soil-borne storage disease. It has led to significant potato losses and limits the amount of land available for potato production."
To address this issue, the new pricing agreement between growers and Simplot will see growers contribute 25 cents per tonne towards pink rot research, which will fund innovation and technologies. Simplot sources more than 300,000 tonnes of potatoes from Tasmanian growers each year.
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