CONSUMER CONFIDENCE: Queensland's Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner with Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie, Eastern Colour's Nathan Baronio, Amelie Gesch and Luigi Coco, President of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association (left).
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE: Queensland's Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner with Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie, Eastern Colour's Nathan Baronio, Amelie Gesch and Luigi Coco, President of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association (left). Matthew Purcell

Restoring strawberry confidence vital

SPIRIT and fight has helped salvage the Queensland strawberry industry from ruin according to one of its leading growers.

State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner was on the Granite Belt Friday morning where he was on hand to help launch the start of the summer strawberry season.

Mr Furner visited Applethorpe's Eastern Colour, where he also talked up a new $600,000 government funded "confidence” campaign.

"I'm telling Queenslander's to get out there and support your Queensland farmers. Make sure you get out there in your stores and support Queensland strawberries,” the minister said.

The campaign, part of the Palaszczuk government's $1 million contribution, aims to bring consumer confidence back to the product.

"It entails a promotional program making sure people are aware it's a great, sweet, fresh, clean, green produce and make sure you continue to eat strawberries.”

Minister Furner said "sinister” acts had brought the industry to its knees, however, police had reduced their investigations.

"It's a difficult trace to follow through the supply chain and at this point in time we're not any closer to finding out who might have been involved in that.

"It has been scaled down because of other pressures and other needs,” he said.

For Eastern Colour owner Nathan Baronio, they've turned focus from the bad to the good and want to ensure a stellar season is forthcoming.

"We've got a huge, amazing season coming and we're ready to provide beautiful strawberries to everyone in Queensland ready for Christmas.

"I'd like to give a huge thank you to the community because it was a team effort to really bring the situation to focus back on positivity.

"The fighting spirit of Queenslander's and Australians... it was really amazing.

"(It was) stressful. We were just at the footstep of our new season and we didn't know where it was going to lead.

"I think that the key was we got together as government and industry and realised it was good produce and it's about selling good, safe, beautiful strawberries to everyone,” he said.

President of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association, Luigi Coco, said the true cost of the tampering scandal won't be fully known for another 12 months.

"At the time of the initial incident, the industry was at the time producing over 800,000 punnets a day and that came to a standstill over a few issues that weren't managed correctly... a lot unfortunately was social media.

"The industry is recovering now, good sales, it's moving, but it needs to stay there. The full recovery will be this time next year when we go through the winter season,” he said.

With the support of the government, the association will undertake another large scale advertising campaign next year in the lead in to the winter season.

"It's one thing putting up with the weather, but when it's out of the growers control like this has been, that's when it hurts most,” Mr Coco said.

Stanthorpe Border Post


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