Australia’s berry industry has received a $650,000 funding boost from the federal government.
The assistance package aims to restore consumer confidence following the recent spate of incidents of tampering with strawberries and other fruits.
Berries Australia Limited is a joint venture of the Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association, Raspberries and Blackberries Australia, and Strawberries Australia, representing more than 700 growers, ranging from major horticultural enterprises and multi-site agribusinesses to local cooperatives and independent farms.
In total, the growers’ annual output of 109,000 tonnes of berries represents a gross return of $1.05 billion farmgate value in the national economy.
Berries Australia chairman Peter McPherson said the recent impact on strawberry growers showed the economic vulnerability of Australian farmers to sabotage beyond their control.
“Australia has a well-earned reputation internationally for the quality of our fresh produce and the safety standards and care taken by our growers.
“Our farmers are proud of the freshness and quality of what they grow and want their produce to go on sale in the same condition that it left the farm” said McPherson.
“Consumer confidence at home and overseas is critical for Australia’s reputation as a source of safe fresh food and a lot is currently being invested in promoting both on-farm safeguards and the systems in place from farmgate to consumer.
“It is also important to remember that the strawberries incident was beyond the influence and control of growers and it’s essential that any program developed is national, integrated and based on the real needs of the horticulture sector, and doesn’t impose more costs on farmers already struggling in a tough environment,” he said.
Berries Australia members supply supermarket chains, non-aligned retailers, food service and restaurants, and Berries Australia has a strong focus on expanding export markets of Australian berries.
Berries are grown in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia enabling year-round production and supply to consumers.