Food processing company McCain Foods has announced the closure of its potato processing plant in South Australia, cutting 59 staff out of their jobs.
The closure, which will reportedly happen before Christmas, will leave potato growers without a local processor and will force them to transport their crop to a much longer distance for processing.
McCain Foods Australia head Louis Wolthers cites cheap imports as the primary threat to the Australian food industry.
“Cheaper potato imports are seriously threatening the future of the processing industry in Australia, and will place further cost pressures on Australia’s growers,” said Wolthers in an AAP report published on Sydney Morning Herald.
“Major food industry companies in Australia would welcome any federal and state government support to address the structural issues in order for the potato industry to be more competitive.”
In related news on ABC Rural Wolthers assured that the decision to close down the Penola plant will not affect the quantity of potatoes it sources from local growers. Half of the potatoes grown in South Australia are currently being processed at Ballarat in Victoria. He said once the Penola plant ceases operation, all potatoes from the south east will be processed at Ballarat.
However Wolthers did not say who will incur the extra costs associated with transporting potatoes further for processing.
“That certainly is something that we have to discuss with those growers,” he said.
The 59 employees will be offered redundancy packages and assistance with finding new work, said the company. McCain has also committed to continuing operations at other plants in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.