Australian strawberry growers have shut down their farms, as fallout from the fruit tampering crisis continues. In January, the Brisbane Times revealed the strawberry industry was forecast to be worth $148 million in 2018-19. This is 14% lower than the average for the past five years.
This was about 8% lower than the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' final estimate for 2017-18, and equated to $12 million being wiped from the farm gate.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the loss was primarily due to the strawberry needle contamination issues in September 2018, which had an immediate and significant impact on consumption and prices. Furner said it could take "some time" for strawberry farmers to recover.
"The damage was significant and it was, I guess, to some extent, it was good that it was towards the end of the season with only about two or three weeks to go last year - there was an oversupply," he said. "Some growers have dropped out of the market ... I understand there was some around the Sunshine Coast or northern Caboolture area."
Furner encouraged people to support farmers and buy Queensland produce. Queensland accounts for about 42% of the strawberry production in Australia.
The first needle was discovered on September 9 when a man bit into a contaminated strawberry he bought at a supermarket. As more needles were discovered in fruit around the country, many of which were believed to have been planted by copycats, strawberries were stripped from supermarket shelves.