AU: Growers face another peak berry season unable to sell fruit

A Coastal berry grower says he has had to shelve his expansion plans and cannot employ as many people this summer, as he awaits the all-clear from fruit fly.

Devastated growers in the fruit fly zone now face a second peak berry season unable to sell fruit.

The embattled growers are still anxiously awaiting the reinstatement of the State’s fruit fly-free status, which appears unlikely to happen until January.

Berry Patch owner, Craig Morris, of Turners Beach, said missing the start of the berry season came as a shock and meant there was no cash flow to fund the expansion.

“We were anticipating we could sell fruit from October through to find this out now is a bit of a major blow,” Mr Morris said.

He said it was “pretty disastrous” because summer is when the business aims to make enough money to see it through the year. Mr Morris said he was grateful to get government compensation for his wasted fruit.

“If we had not been compensated for fruit we would basically be shut down now,” he said. “The lion share of our customers come here, so it’s knocked the top off our shop - it’s pretty will take us a couple of years to get over.”

Mr Morris said he’d frozen a lot of his fruit and plants to minimise the impact and rented commercial freezer space. He said it was barely viable to sell the frozen berries at $7 a kilo (half what he received for fresh fruit) in competition with cheap imports.

“It has jeopardised our future… the big thing is our budget and how are we going to look without our October to December fruit sales,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to those who came with ideas to utilise as many frozen berries as possible, such as a Devonport gin distiller and a wine maker. Rhuby Delights used some to make chocolate-coated freeze dried strawberries and Anvers used a tonne to make strawberry cake.

“We remain positive and there is always a positive in every bit of adversity.”

Fruit Growers Tasmania president, Nick Hansen, said the paperwork is with the Commonwealth to assess and announce a date to declare fruit fly free status.

He said the worst case scenario was January. He said it’s out of Biosecurity Tasmania’s hands adding “everyone is doing their best”.

Primary Industries Minister, Sarah Courtney, said Biosecurity Tasmania compiled evidence for the Commonwealth to use in negotiations with trading partners to accept removal of the control areas.

“The Government has been in constant contact with the industry and other stakeholders and the date for reinstatement will be released as soon as it is finalised,’’ she said.


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