Beetroot farmers not beaten yet

DOWN, NOT BEATEN: Beetrot farmer Peter Lerch works on his final load for the season.
DOWN, NOT BEATEN: Beetrot farmer Peter Lerch works on his final load for the season.

AS beetroot farmers throughout the Lockyer Valley harvest and process the last of their crops for the season, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

The farmers, who are responsible for 90% of Australia's beetroot production, will finish up their beetroot season by mid next week following Golden Circle's decision to move processing operations offshore to New Zealand earlier this year.

Lockyer Valley beetroot farmer Peter Lerch was yesterday finishing his last loads after growing the produce for more than 30 years.

"It's a sad day," Mr Lerch said.

"We're just concentrating on finishing the season out and then we'll look at what the future holds.

"We just need to look forward and not back."

Mr Lerch said he had supplied more than 2000 tonne of baby and sliced beet this season and was hopeful for the future.

"We've just got to work at getting something new and something different," he said.

"We're hopeful that there'll be an alternate means and processors to cover in a different format for the future.

"But there is a lot of work to be done to reach that."

However, the Golden Circle move may not spell the end for beetroot in the Lockyer Valley with farmers fighting hard for future alternate means of production.

Farmers United Inc yesterday announced that, after meeting with HJ Heinz/Golden Circle, lingering issues had been successfully resolved.

The Lockyer group's president, Colin Dorber said the terms of the agreements were confidential but offered a brighter outlook.

"However, the agreement clears the way for the Lockyer Farmers United to now progress with certainty on pursuing a range of current options designed to deliver new crop planting, processing and marketing arrangements for a harvest in August 2012," Mr Dorber said.

"These meetings are occurring during this week."We are pleased to announce that negotiations to achieve a transition from discussions to contractual arrangements are well advanced and we have a much higher level of confidence now of securing an ongoing production profile for the previously impacted Lockyer Valley growers.

"It is our intention to announce the outcome of these negotiations as they move to commercial fruition, hopefully over coming weeks."

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