STRONG SUPPORT: Buyers have gravitated towards local farms like Gary Lewis's Cooloola Berries in the wake of the needle-spiking sabotage scandal.
STRONG SUPPORT: Buyers have gravitated towards local farms like Gary Lewis's Cooloola Berries in the wake of the needle-spiking sabotage scandal. Renee Albrecht

Fruit sabotage crisis has silver lining for Gympie farmers

SUPPORT for the region's berry and fruit farmers is surging in the wake of the needle-spiking sabotage sweeping across the nation.

While Australia's larger producers are in crisis as a result of needles being found in strawberries and fruit, local producers say support for them has grown.

"Our shop sales have not dropped off here at all,” Cooloola Berries owner Kim Lewis said.

Buyers had shown "strong support”, she said, and many were casting their eyes towards local suppliers fresh in the knowledge of the fruit's path from farm to shelf.

She said the increased interest was from more than everyday shoppers, too.

Gary Lewis at Cooloola Berries.
Gary Lewis at Cooloola Berries. Renee Albrecht

Restaurants were tending away from large-scale suppliers "to reassure patrons of their safety and quality”.

Farmer and Sun owner Trena Waugh said their customers were unperturbed.

MORE ABOUT THE FRUIT CRISIS

"Business has been fine. People want to buy local,” she said.

Mrs Waugh said people had definitely moved their focus on to local suppliers and stores since the start of the sabotage situation.

And, any government help for the farmers losing out would be good.

A needle found embedded in a strawberry bought from Woolworths Kirkwood.
A needle found embedded in a strawberry bought from Woolworths Kirkwood. Facebook: Angela Stevenson

"It's a huge thing for all of the industry,” she said.

"You really want to hope they help suppliers.”

Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien asked people to continue that support, and slammed those responsible for the spiking as "gutless cowards”.

"I encourage everyone to continue to support our fruit and vegetable farmers and continue to purchase locally grown produce and to use appropriate precautions by cutting fruit and vegetables up prior to consumption,” he said.

He said police and Queensland Health were investigating, what appears to be "deliberate sabotage”.

In Gympie Llew O'Brien and Minister Michael McCormack.
In Gympie Llew O'Brien and Minister Michael McCormack. Renee Albrecht

New laws were expected to be in place by the end of the week.

"I expect the courts to throw the book at the perpetrators or copycats of these criminal acts.

"Anyone who knows anything must do the right thing and come forward to stop these gutless cowards.

"Farmers need our help and support, and the Federal Coalition Government and the Queensland State Government have each provided $1 million to put more food safety officials on the ground to increase detection and fast track recalls.”

Gympie Times


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