Australia: Needle crisis hits Perth strawberry plantings

Far fewer strawberries are to be planted in Perth this year, after growers took an estimated $12 million hit on income last season because of the needle sabotage crisis.

Western Australia Strawberry Growers Association spokesman Jamie Michael said the exact reduction in plantings won’t be known for a few more weeks. At that time, growers in the area will start to lay plastic on the ground, ahead of plantings to start in late March.

“Strawberries are an expensive crop to put into the ground — about $50,000 per hectare including plants, labour, plastic mulch and tents over the top. After the losses last year many growers simply won’t have the funds to plant their normal sized crops, so plantings will be substantially down.”

Mr Michael, of Ti Produce at Bullsbrook, said strawberry farms on the outskirts of Perth averaged four to eight hectares and there were about 50 growers operating in the area.

Michael said consumer confidence had started to recover after farm worker My Ut Trinh was charged in Queensland over contaminating goods with the intent to cause economic loss. Unfortunately, there was the occasional copy cat incident still occurring.

According to thewest.com.au, many WA growers have installed metal detectors as a food safety measure.


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