Perfect growing conditions would normally be a boon for the strawberry industry, but this year growers are concerned their hard work will go to waste.
Some farmers say it’s not worth the time, effort and money to pick and pack the produce.
Elise Eyears reports.
Queensland’s 200 strawberry growers say the prices big supermarkets are paying for their produce isn’t enough to meet production costs.
With 40 million plants in the ground this year in Queensland alone, the market is saturated with the fruit.
As a result, some farmers are cutting their crop down by 50% or even stopping production altogether.
Laura Hendriksen, Strawberry grower: “At 80 cents we cannot afford to pick the strawberries and pack the strawberries. 80 cents is too low a price to receive for our strawberries.”
Pieter Hendriksen, Strawberry grower: “Typical farmers, we don’t give up and try and keep going. That’s all we can do.”
The unseasonal dry Winter has caused a glut in the market. This has meant that strawberry farmers are having to sell their strawberries for less than a dollar, which is less than the cost of production.
Farmers say the wage rate for pickers is too high, which has added extra pressure to production costs.
Despite these costs, the strawberries still have to go somewhere.
Jennifer Rowling, Qld Strawberry Industry: “We rely heavily on the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths to move the fruit. Otherwise the fruit will just sit in the markets and it wouldn’t go anywhere.”
Despite the low market price, Queensland farmers are resilient and are encouraging consumers to buy more punnets and freeze them for Christmas.
Elise Eyears, QUT News.