An Australian fresh produce company admits its winter strawberry production in 2020 has been "a little different" due to a number of unique challenges to contend with.
Campbell Farms Co-owner Irine Kay says the bushfires earlier in the year, the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic led to issues where the industry experienced border closure, which has meant a shortage of experienced pickers and packers.
"Not too long prior, in September 2018 the strawberry industry has had to overcome a food safety crisis, punnets of strawberries grown in Queensland and Western Australia were found to be contaminated with needles," she said. "It has been a challenging time for the industry, runners for the winter fruits arrived late, which means planting was delayed for 3-4 weeks. For our upcoming summer crop, we are putting more strawberries in the ground than we have ever done before. This is due to the stable and consistent client demand. In response to customer feedback, we are also trialling other varieties. Despite all these the future looks bright for Campbell Farms."
Campbell Farms owns its own brand of strawberries called Mrs Campbell’s Strawberries, which is stocked at major chains including Coles, Harris Farms and independent boutique fresh produce suppliers.
"Mrs Campbell’s Strawberries are grown in Caboolture Queensland," Mrs Kay said. "We are looking to also grow in Stanthorpe, but that region has been badly affected by the drought and it doesn’t look good for the coming summer crop. We have been lucky that we have an established and solid clientele base. In winter the demand is slightly less than in summer. There’s nothing like summer berries, however, strawberries are one of those fruits that customers expect to find on the shelves all year round. Strawberries are such glamour fruits. You can eat it fresh, cooked or frozen."
Campbell Farms is an established company that has been in the marketplace for over 15 years, with the head office and warehouse based at Sydney Markets. Three years ago, husband and wife team Mark and Irine Kay purchased Campbell Farms; they have been in Fresh produce for 17 years and are hands-on on the daily operations of Campbell Farms.
"Campbell Farms is a cross-border growing operation which enables us to plan production and growing to maximise the supply of fresh produce to the Australian market throughout the year," Mrs Kay said. "We source Australian grown and packed fresh produce. We grow Strawberries in Queensland, but our supply network stretches along the Eastern seaboard of Australia."
The company's main lines include Strawberries, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Iceberg Lettuce, Cos Lettuce, Cabbage and Celery - but also supply Baby Buk Choy, Fennel, Baby Broccoli, Asparagus and Leeks.
"The volume demand hit the roof during the early stages of the pandemic where people started panic buying," Mrs Kay said. "The two major challenges that growers face is getting enough water and having good workers who are willing to work hard. The bushfire, drought and the pandemic have added to these. I think this may be the new normal. But Campbell Farms is a trusted supplier, with systems, structure and the agility to move the produce quickly. We are always looking to do things better and ready to move with the time."