THE South Australian Produce Market and the state government have responded to a nationwide concern about tampered fruit with plans for a metal detector after sowing needles were deliberately inserted in interstate-sourced strawberries.
Market chief executive officer Angelo Demasi said the consumer support for the strawberry industry had been overwhelming.
“While the national investigations continue, this will enable growers to continue to service consumers locally, interstate and overseas,” he said.
“We want to ensure growers can prepare for the upcoming season and reassure consumers that they are able to enjoy locally grown, fresh strawberries without fear.”
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone, whose government contributed $50,000 towards the installation, said the industry was pleased with the support of the public.
“The industry is optimistic and while they are buoyed at the wave of support from consumers buying strawberries, we want to make sure this continues when local strawberries start hitting the shelves,” he said. “I encourage South Australians to look out for strawberries in coming weeks and get behind the local industry.”
For SA strawberry growers, it is business as usual, as they make final preparations ahead of the picking season, due to begin later this month and run through to May.
Steph Rozaklis, Green Valley Strawberries, Nairne, said they were being kept busy watering and fertilising the fruit.
“We have about 80 to 100 staff living locally that are employed to assist us in picking for the season, we are right on track to start picking mid-October,” she said.
Ms Rozaklis said so far, the fruit on their 16 hectares of strawberry plantings looked to be of good quality.
She was optimistic about the future of the industry, saying her partner had left his job to join the family business, which includes her parents Jim and Linda, and sisters Danielle and Christie.
Uraidla strawberry grower Malcolm Parker, Parkers Strawberries, said this season was slightly behind where they would normally be, driven by a cold start to spring.
“Some years we’d be picking strawberries by this time but we expect to start about Melbourne Cup day,” he said. “Come Christmas time and new years, there should be plenty of fruit about.”
Across the state, about eight businesses grow strawberries, producing about 6000 tonnes grown in 2016-17, with a farmgate value of about $42 million.
SA Health is reminding people to cut strawberries before consuming them.