Many of the farmers supplying vegetables to McCain’s vegetable processing factory at Smithton, in Tasmania’s northwest, are expected to turn to growing pharmaceutical poppy crops instead.
McCain says it will keep operating its potato chip factory at Smithton.
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett met with the workers in Smithton on Monday, spearheading a government community assistance task force sent to the area.
He wants McCain to find jobs for as many of the displaced workers as possible.
In the meantime, he says he’ll seek an explanation from company bosses about the closure, which is expected to impact heavily on the small town.
“I will be travelling to Melbourne at the earliest opportunity Friday morning to meet with the managing director of McCain to try to understand what the reasoning behind this decision is and if it can be reversed,” Mr Bartlett told reporters.
McCain says rising costs and the upkeep on the ageing 60-year-old frozen vegetable factory at Smithton makes it no longer financially viable.
Experts say the strong Australian dollar and the relatively high costs of meeting “first world” workplace safety and environmental standards has priced the Tasmanian growers out of the global market.
About 115 permanent staff at McCain will be offered redundancies and given between six and 12 months’ notice before the work dries up.
About 75 casuals are also affected by the closure.
McCain will stop processing vegetables at the factory by the end of April next year but will continue packaging them there until November.
McCain has opted to use its plant at Hastings in New Zealand to source and process its vegetables instead.