Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has today announced $1 million in funding to boost the strawberry industry as farmers struggle following recent incidents of contamination.
“This past week, Queensland has been the victim of an ugly, calculated and despicable crime,” Ms 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.”
This $1 million fund will:
- boost consumer confidence through promoting the quality of Queensland strawberries;
- investigate with the industry how to further improve traceability and integrity in the supply chain; and
- help growers for the remainder of this season and as the summer strawberry season in the Granite Belt ramps up.
The value of Queensland strawberries for 2017–18 is forecast to be $160 million.
There are approximately 150 strawberry growers in Queensland, with most production around Dayboro, Beerwah, Wamuran, Elimbah, Caboolture, Stanthorpe and Bundaberg.
Queensland growers produce 6-15,000 tonnes of fruit per season, up to 60 million punnets of strawberries.
“Strawberry farmers say their banks have already been on the phone to them,” the Premier said.
“I urge those banks to act responsibly and with compassion.”
Ms Palaszczuk reminded Queenslanders to cut up any strawberries before consumption.
“My government is committed to the safety of Queenslanders everywhere. Within hours of learning of this crime, we warned consumers of concerns about first two, then three brands,” she said.
“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.
“I call on anyone with information on the culprits to come forward – think what damage could have been done if a toddler had been handed a piece of contaminated fruit.
“The community needs to come together and help police catch those responsible to restore our industry to the place of pride it deserves.”
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,” Mr 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.”