Simplot Australia has agreed to a contract with McDonald's to supply 50% of its french fries for the next three years, triggering a protest by Tasmanian farmers.
The potato supplier lost half its supply contract to the fast food chain in May, creating a $50 million loss for the Tasmanian economy. The potato growers agreed to cut their price by $3 a tonne, allowing Simplot to develop a competitive offer.
In the first significant protest by Australia's vegetable industry, up to 3,000 people with 200 tractors rallied in the Tasmanian town of Devonport, urging McDonald's to show more social responsibility.
"You profit from this market, put the money back," farmer Richard Bovill said at the rally. "If you don't, you will find that sensible, caring Australians will no longer want to support your product."
Farmers who had supplied all french fries to McDonald's Australian outlets now share the contract with McCain Foods, which will get some of its potatoes from New Zealand.
Bovill, who coordinates of the Fair Dinkum Food Campaign, said farmers would keep up their protest until McDonald's realized the effects of its "predatory behavior."