Western Australia's strawberry industry begins 1st harvest since needle scare

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-12 15:02:27|Editor: Shi Yinglun
Video PlayerClose

SYDNEY, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Western Australia state's farmers are getting ready to harvest for the first time since the devastating "needle scare" which rocked the country's agricultural sector at the end of last year.

With much of the industry decimated across the country, growers on the west coast were hit even harder than most.

During 2016 and 2017, many farmers were forced to dump their crops as a result of green snail and psyllid pests spoiling their produce.

Then in 2018, when around 200 punnets of strawberries were found to have needles hidden inside them, sellers started a full-scale recall right around the country.

Described at the time as an act of "fruit terrorism" by politicians, a massive nationwide police investigation got underway which eventually led detectives to a disgruntled employee at a strawberry packing plant in Queensland State.

Although the 50-year-old woman was charged and detained by police, for many farmers the damage was already done.

"There were three disasters in three different seasons, and that incident was the final straw for some growers and they've taken the opportunity not to invest and grow again," Western Australian Strawberry Growers Association President Neil Handasyde told the Australian Broadcasting Association on Monday.

"It's a big capital investment each year, it's a bit hard to know whether some of the bigger growers have planted in their place, but there are certainly figures around that say it has reduced by 20 percent."

Worth around 61 million U.S. dollars per year, Western Australia exports more strawberries than any other state Down Under and normally produces around 10,000 tons of the fruit per year.

While recent years have been soured, growers are now hopeful this harvest will be a lot sweeter.

"All fingers and toes crossed for a nice, quiet, incident-free season," Handasyde said.

"It's been really positive so far. Strawberries are in their prime; they're nice and red and big."