Strawberry growers need aid
Calls for compensation as needle scare hits farmers
OPPOSITION Leader Deb Frecklington has called for a State Government assistance package for Queensland strawberry growers as police investigations continue into the needle contamination scare.
Ms Frecklington said she was concerned about the crippling effect of the scare on the industry.
“I would be hoping the Government has some plan to put something in place to help assist our strawberry farmers going forward,” she said. “I don’t think an assistance package would be out of the realm of possibility.”
Ms Frecklington’s call came as Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner met with grower representatives on the Sunshine Coast yesterday.
“The Government will consider the next steps on the basis of those meetings,” a spokesman for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
The Government has already announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the strawberry contamination. Most of the estimated 80 strawberry farms in Queensland are in the Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg and Moreton Bay regions.
Some stores were offloading the fruit for as little as 25¢ a punnet at the weekend. Sabotaged punnets have been reported as far north as Townsville, and as far south as Victoria. Last night South Australia confirmed it’s first case last night after an Adelaide Hills resident found a needle in a punnet of Mal’s Black Label strawberries produced in Gingin in WA. South Australian Police are investigating. There were no injuries.
Health authorities are reluctant to detail numbers and locations of spiked strawberries, fearing this may encourage copycats.
“All reports of contaminations are being fully investigated, but no other brands are being withdrawn at this time,” Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said. “If you still have Berry Licious, Berry Obsession and Donny-brook-branded strawberries at home you should return them to the store or throw them away. For all other brands, our advice remains. If in doubt, throw them out … (or) make sure you chop before you chomp.”
Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association spokeswoman Jennifer Rowling said the public could help strawberry producers by continuing to buy the fruit.
Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm owner Laura Hendriksen said growers were doing it tough and needed cunsumers’ support.
PEAK: Laura Hendriksen at her Chambers Flat farm. Picture: AAP/Ric Frearson