By: Warren Nunn
One of the farms hit by the senseless strawberry tampering crisis are standing strong in their faith despite the shock and disbelief of what has happened.
The Taste ’n See farm at Bellmere, Caboolture, about 50km north of Brisbane, is one of the larger operations affected by the baffling appearance of needles inserted into punnets of strawberries.
Farm growing manager Laura Wells, told 96five’s Timothy Charles that despite the crisis the family is standing firm in their faith, “I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do without Him”.
In 1990, Laura’s parents Merv and Marilyn Schiffke, along with friends Brian and Jane Stothart, combined neighbouring properties. They established an operation that was recognised as the 2017 Horticulture Farmer of the Year winner.
… absolutely mortified, shocked and in disbelief..
Since 2003, the farm has supplied millions of punnets of strawberries to Coles supermarkets.
Strawberry tampering leaves growers in disbelief
But nothing could have prepared them for the current crisis. Laura said it left her “absolutely mortified, shocked and in disbelief”.
“It’s affected us massively and, with the first incident, sales and demand for our fruit actually dropped by up to 50 percent.
“With that obviously came a massive price hit for us,” she said.
It’s been a very intense week for the broader industry.
Theirs was only one of many farms to be hugely affected. “It’s been a very intense week for the broader industry,” she said.
“We are very fortunate to be able to be treading water for a little bit longer than other growers.
“A lot of farms are to the point where they’ve had to close their doors and to put off hundreds of workers.”
Strawberry crisis makes international headlines
The crisis has made headlines worldwide and forced growers to implement extra safety precautions before the fruit reaches supermarket shelves.
Cut them up and don’t cut them out.
The industry is pushing the catchphrase, “Cut them up and don’t cut them out” to encourage people to keep buying the fruit.
“We need people to buy a punnet of strawberries,” Laura said. “Without people actually buying our produce we can’t survive.”
Governments have reacted with financial help and as well as promised harsher penalties for culprits.
Meanwhile, police face a complex investigation to establish who is responsible for the dozens of tampering incidents.
About the author: Warren Nunn has been a journalist for more than 40 years. For 27 years until 2013, he worked at Queensland’s main daily newspaper The Courier-Mail.