2 million Aussie strawberry industry at risk

Strawberries being dumped in WA. Picture: Jamie Michael via ABC

2 million Aussie strawberry industry at risk

TONNES of strawberries are being dumped or going to waste across the nation because the needle contamination scare threatens the way forward for the half-a-billion-dollar trade.

Western Australia Strawberry Growers Affiliation head Jamie Michael shared a photograph of truckloads of fruit being dumped after a needle was present in South Australia in a punnet sourced from WA.

“We are dumping strawberries — we have stopped some of the varieties already,” he advised the ABC.

“With strawberries you’ll want to proceed selecting them, if you happen to cease selecting them for a number of days then they cease producing fruit, so we’re making an attempt to climate out this storm and hope that issues get higher, however to do this it’s costing.

“It’s such a shame. Right now, we’re in the peak of the season, the fruit is eating well, this should be the time when (growers) get some sales and get to put some money back into the bank.”

It comes as the pinnacle of the trade peak physique warns a couple of dozen Queensland strawberry growers are more likely to go underneath this 12 months and extra may observe if the fallout from the needle disaster spreads.

With wholesale costs falling by half to 50 to 60 cents per punnet, Strawberries Australia chair John Calle stated there was “no point getting up in the morning to pick strawberries below cost”.

“We’ve already had repercussions in Queensland, what’s going to happen in Victoria I don’t know,” stated Mr. Calle, a 38-year strawberry grower primarily based in Wandin North, about 40km east of Melbourne.

“We’re still four weeks away (from picking season in Victoria). The million-dollar question is how it’s going to affect us. We’re putting things in place at the moment, growers are putting metal detectors in and everything else the supermarkets demand.”

Strawberries are grown year-round in Australia, with about one third of the nation’s roughly 620 growers situated in Queensland, one third in Victoria, 22 per cent in Western Australia and a small quantity in Tasmania and NSW.

Strawberries being dumped in WA. Picture: Jamie Michael via ABC

Strawberries being dumped in WA. Image: Jamie Michael through ABCSupply:Provided

The trade was plunged into chaos last Sunday after a buyer from Burpengary in Queensland bit right into a strawberry with a needle inside it and ended up in hospital.

Since then, needles or pins have been reported in strawberries in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. Affected manufacturers embody Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Pleasant Strawberries and Oasis.

In response, Coles and Aldi pulled all strawberries from their cabinets, whereas Woolworths pulled solely the affected manufacturers it stocked.

Aldi introduced on Monday it might resume promoting non-affected manufacturers. That announcement got here hours after New Zealand grocery store chain Foodstuffs stated it might cease promoting Australian strawberries.

“The food waste associated with this matter is significant and has been unavoidable,” Aldi stated in an announcement. “We are actively working with our valued primary producers and the supporting supply chain to do what we can to minimize the impact and cost of the recent withdrawals.”

Coles additionally stated it advisable the provision of strawberries into its shops on Monday afternoon.

“Coles has worked with our suppliers to implement additional control measures to ensure strawberries are inspected before they are sent to supermarkets,” a spokesperson for the grocery retailer large stated.

“Queensland Health has advised people should cut up strawberries before consuming them.”

Queensland Police advised the ABC the contamination of the strawberries was executed “obviously to injure somebody”. It’s believed among the circumstances could also be copycats.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has supplied a 00,00zero reward. “Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia — they are putting an entire industry at risk,” she stated on Saturday.

“I would urge anyone with information that may be relevant to this incident in any way to contact police as soon as possible.”

Federal Well being Minister Greg Hunt described it as a “vicious crime” and ordered the nationwide meals security watchdog to evaluate the states’ dealing with of the contamination.

Final week, the Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Affiliation stated it had “reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee” could also be behind the needle scare.

“All we have to do is catch this mongrel,” Mr. Calle stated. “He’s buggering the community and destroying the wider industry. I think the best medicine is for the media to stop airing (these cases) and let the police do their work.”

Mr. Calle stated it was solely a small variety of punnets affected out of thousands and thousands, and he fearful the media protection was encouraging copycats. “The media is giving too much air for what it is,” he stated.

“All we can do is put things in place to make sure it doesn’t happen, but how do we stop a heart attack? At the end of the day, strawberries don’t grow needles, someone’s physically (putting them in). It’s a criminal act.”

Mr. Calle stated it was too early to foretell what the final word monetary influence could be, however that he held grave considerations for his fellow growers.

“I can’t predict the future,” he stated. “Last I heard between 10 and 12 growers will probably go out of business this year because of (selling) below cost,” he stated. “It’s not going to be easy to sort things out.”

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