September 19, 2018
Queenslanders have turned out in droves to support strawberry farmers despite recent “needle sabotage” cases.
Strawberries have been recalled nationally after claims of needles inside the fruit were reported in Western Australia and South Australia over the weekend.
“The sabotage of our strawberry industry is not just an attack on hard-working growers and workers but it reaches into almost every home and school lunch box,” Australian politician Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement.
On Monday, one of the affected Queensland growers shared a video of trucks dumping thousands of strawberries that could no longer be sold as a result of the scare.
“This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family,” wrote Stephanie Chheang, the daughter of the owner of Donnybrook Strawberries. “This here is a video of our strawberries being dumped, this here is worth more then you could ever imagine and within 3 days we lost it all. My mum works day through to the night, controlling the shed and her 250 employees, making sure her strawberries are packed to perfection.”
As word spread that local strawberry farmers were in trouble, people began showing up to the farms to buy strawberries directly from the farmers.
“In a show of support, we need to be buying the strawberries, we need to be chopping them up and we need to be eating them,” said Deb Frecklington, the leader of the Liberal National Party of Queensland. “We need to make sure that our community at this time really stands together against these morons who have done this to our strawberry industry.”
Sunshine Coast producers said they sold their strawberries in record time as loyal customers rallied around growers.
Customers at a Wamuran strawberry farm waited for two hours on Wednesday and pickers struggled to keep up with the demand.
“At one point, 30-40 people were lined up waiting, and that’s without those who were coming in to pick their own,” said Faith Jennings, who was one of those who waited at Wamuran for hours.
“They were happy to pick their own or stand and wait, knowing the strawberries hadn’t been tampered with and were fresh off the farm.”
Paulo Rezende from Sunrise Farm said Coles and Aldi withdrawing strawberries from shelves for a few days had seen sales go “crazy”.
“We don’t supply to Coles, we just grow and sell at the markets and on our farm,” he said. “Our sales have increased by 25 per cent at the markets.”
Terry Toumpas from Rolin Farms said he had brought at least 700 kilograms of strawberries to Brisbane on Wednesday and had enjoyed an “incredible response” from customers.
“Normally that would do us until 5-5.30 in the afternoon and we were out by 1pm today,” he said.
According to the Brisbane Times, more than 100 police officers, including 60 detectives, are hunting for those responsible for Queensland’s strawberry sabotage.
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