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Thursday, 1 January  2009  Vegie Farmers

Meet some vegetable farmers who aren't happy about companies buying cheaper vegetables from overseas.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: Farmers and their mechanical might are moving into position for battle. These tractors represent a fraction of the many millions of dollars invested in agriculture in Tasmania. They're also symbolic of the money at stake if vegetable contracts continue to slide. This week's pre-dawn muster has been a chance for farmers to vent their anger at fast food chain McDonald's. Tasmania's exclusive French fry contract will be cut in half come March next year after a decision to source cheaper chips from New Zealand.

But McDonald's argues it uses 93% of Australian product and profit margins on fries have been exaggerated.

McDonald's isn't the only multinational to face the fury of farmers. Supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles have also been given a spray for importing processed vegetables and in some cases labelling them as "house brands".

In a statement Woolworths says less than 10% of its home brand products come from overseas. And Coles argues it prefers to buy Australian wherever quality and quantity can be achieved at a good price.

But it's the thin end of the wedge for farmers, who are asking consumers to join in a campaign which they believe could save their industry.

RICHARD BOVILL: We want the public to think and vote with their dollars and show these companies we will change the way we buy if you don't change the way you buy.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: But can people power change well-entrenched retail models or globalisation for that matter? It's shaping up to be a David and Goliath battle and it's being waged from these modest campaign headquarters in Devonport.

MIKE BADCOCK, AUSVEG CHAIRMAN: It's going to have a decimating effect on the amount of dollars in the community that's going to be available to keep going round so it'll put unemployment in a more serious situation.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: And there are predictions things may get worse.

CRAIG WOODFIELD, TASMANIAN CONSERVATION TRUST: In all likelihood in the next few years, both of the major processors in Tasmania will leave and that leaves a major hole in the Tasmanian agricultural sector.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: The battle is only just beginning. The tractors will move up the east coast of Australia to broadcast the plight of vegetable growers. The game plan is to stir the community nerve which could agitate State and federal governments to introduce clear country-of-origin labelling and perhaps reform the retail industry.

MATTHEW RYAN: The Australian public can control the destiny of this country. We're being told at the moment that it's all about economic policy and these people have got the right to do it. Yes, they have the right to do it but do they have the moral conscience?

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English Bites - Vegie Farmers
story notes

mechanical might
Here, might refers to physical strength. The word mechanical is used to refer to machines. They are powerful machines.

A tractor is a vehicle with large wheels used in farming.

A fraction is a small part.

Here, to invest means to spend money on something, in the hope that it will make you a profit.

Agriculture is another word for farming.

at stake
Something that is at stake is at risk or in jeopardy.

Example: The soldiers put their lives at stake during the battle
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

A multinational is a large and powerful company that produces and sells goods in many different countries.
The prefix multi- means many.

A supermarket is a large store where people buy groceries and other goods. The prefix super- means large, or bigger than usual.

given a spray
To give someone a spray means to tell them off, or to speak angrily to them.

Example: The boss gave him a spray for being late again.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

Importing means bringing in from another country.

Processed means prepared or treated in a certain way.

thin end of the wedge
The phrase thin end of the wedge refers to a small change that is the start of something much bigger. A wedge is thin at one end , like this.

Example: Privatising essential services like electricity and water is the thin end of the wedge - soon everything will be run by the private sector, including education.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

A consumer is a person who uses or buys a product. They consume or use it.

A campaign is a series of activities that are organised to try to achieve a goal.

David and Goliath battle
A David and Goliath battle is an uneven contest between someone very small and someone very large and powerful with the possibility that the small contestant might win.

Example: This Saturday's game between the teams on the top and bottom of the competition looks like being a David and Goliath battle.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

To broadcast means to send out information.

Plight refers to a sad or difficult situation.

Here told is the past participle of the irregular verb tell. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: tell

What does shape up mean?

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