ANGRY potato farmers have lashed out at manufacturing giant McCain Foods after learning they could be out of jobs by the end of the week.
Ballarat farmers expect to bear the full brunt of McCain’s cutbacks in production, with the majority to either have their supply trimmed or cut completely.
They are expected to learn by the end of the week whether they still have jobs as potato suppliers.
The company is no longer dealing with the Ballarat McCain Growers Association, instead opting to negotiate prices with individual growers.
Industry sources say McCain has offered a 10 per cent price cut for the growers’ potatoes, down between $30 to $40 per tonne from last year’s agreement.
It is understood some farmers have accepted the price cut, while others will be unable to survive with the cuts or have not been able to reach an agreement.
McCain Foods says decreased production across Australia is behind the cutbacks, with supply to be reduced across the country.
One farmer, who wished to remain anonymous due to confidentiality agreements, said the farming community was furious with McCain.
“There are some second and third generation McCain growers who will have nobody to supply to,” he said.
“I’m lost for words about what is going on. There is a fair bit of anger and disbelief.
“No matter how many years people have been growing for them, it doesn’t seem to matter.”
McCain has blamed an increase in imports into the Australian food market for its decreased local demand, which it says is impacting businesses and people across the country.
McCain Foods regional supply chain director Graham Harvey said the writing had been on the wall for some time and that food production was simply too expensive in Ballarat and Australia.
He said there had been a “significant downturn” in production, as international imports had doubled in the past 12 months.
“We’ve cut back across all regions. We’re seeing significant pressure on our production,” he said.
Ballarat-based DLP Senator John Madigan said it was “not good for the community as a whole”.
He said there was a fair and unfair way of conducting business and that McCain needed to show more respect for local farmers and Ballarat as a whole.
In March last year, farmers formed a blockade at the McCain factory with their tractors for days after negotiation talks regarding potato prices failed.
Farmers believe the latest cutbacks from McCain Foods are serving as some sort of payback from the blockade, although Mr Harvey denied it was an act of revenge.
All Ballarat potato farmers are expected to learn their fate tomorrow or early next week.