Crop sabotage has 'little impact'
SABOTAGE of about seven million tomato seedlings in Bowen should have little impact on Southern Downs growers and consumers.
Since the discovery of poisoned plants in two nurseries in north Queensland, prices have been expected to increase, but locals in the industry say this will only be for a short period of time.
Rodney Haynes, a tomato producer from the Granite Belt’s Bent and Haynes, said because tomatoes were harvested here around mid-December to April, he didn’t anticipate demand or price to change significantly.
“The poisoning in Bowen will affect supply in the October/November period, so it shouldn’t interfere with us,” he said.
“Their main competition is from the Bundaberg area.”
He said one possible impact of the poisonings may be on seasonal workers who could drift to the Granite Belt earlier in the year if jobs were scarce further north.
“It doesn’t mean there will be more but they may come earlier.
“Normally workers come into the region just before Christmas as our season starts. If many come earlier they may struggle to get work and won’t be able to afford to stick around for six weeks until the season starts. So, if they come early and leave early, we may have a shortage.”
Police investigating the crop poisoning of tomato, capsicum and melon seedlings have warned Bowen farmers to be on guard for potential further acts of sabotage.
It’s suspected a herbicide was injected into the irrigation system at the nurseries.
Reports say it is the third time such poisonings have occurred in the area and Mr Haynes said the Granite Belt was lucky it had never been subjected to such an act.
“It’s pretty out there as far as a vendetta goes. The scale of it is unbelievable.
“They had a tough year last year in Bowen with prices, so this is like kicking them whilst they’re down.”
Neither Mr Haynes nor Sam Giacca from Sam’s Fruit and Veg at the Summit would speculate figures on the tomato price increase, but Mr Giacca said he thought it would be a relatively small period of time before they returned to normal.
“I don’t think the seedlings were too far along, so I’m sure, depending on the stage they were at, they would plant more straight away,” Mr Giacca said.
“Prices might increase a bit but not for a huge amount of time, I wouldn’t think.
“Last year prices were quite low for tomatoes anyway, so they will go up in the interim but not as much as people think because of the amount they grow.
“It’s very, very bad but they will work quickly and Bundaberg will increase their crops, so it hopefully won’t be too bad.”