The Queensland government is getting behind the state’s strawberry farmers who are struggling as a result of the ongoing needle contamination scandal. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced a $1 million funding boost for the industry.
The funding is intended to help growers for the remainder of the season and boost consumer confidence through the promotion of quality Queensland strawberries. It will also help with investigations on how to further improve traceability and integrity in the supply chain.
“This past week, Queensland has been the victim of an ugly, calculated and despicable crime,” Palaszczuk said.
“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.”
There are approximately 150 growers in Queensland that produce up to 60 million punnets of strawberries each season.
The value of Queensland strawberries for 2017–18 is forecast to be $160 million.
“Police are doing their job too, but it is a difficult one. They are having to deal with not only the original contamination, but also apparent copy cats. This funding boost for growers follows my government’s approval of a $100,000 reward from the Queensland Police Service for information leading to an arrest,” she said.
The Premier’s announcement follows Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner’s meeting with growers in Beerwah last night.
“Our government is listening to the strawberry farmers and we are acting,” Furner said.
“I have written to my Federal, state and territory counterparts about this matter as it is central to protecting our reputation for safe, healthy and high quality fruit.”
Needles have now been found in strawberries in all six states, with a New Zealand grocery distributor announcing that it would pull the Australian-grown fruit from its shelves.
A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
The Premier called on anyone with information about the culprits to come forward.