“We’re here to show the farmers we care,” says Amanda, whose cousin Amanda Harvey, 44, and her daughter Chloe, 15, trawl a nearby field for plump red berries. West Australian growers have opened their farms to the public to help clear excess berries after the sabotage catastrophe, which one grower has termed “the 9/11 for strawberries”.
Australia’s $280 million dollar strawberry industry is now in turmoil, with more than 100 instances of strawberries and other fruits contaminated with sewing needles reported around the nation in two weeks.
Half a kilometre up the road, at D’Uva’s Strawberry Farm, it’s a similar scene. “It makes me so happy to see people supporting us while we’re going through this trauma,” says the farm’s owner, Doan Dep. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to our18-year-old business. I’ve been crying on my husband’s shoulder every night.”
Bizarrely, one isolated case of needles in berries found in a punnet in Queensland quickly turned into a national crisis, the criminal behaviour repeatedly reoccurring Australia-wide. Across the nation, shops have removed certain brands from the shelves.
The alarm was raised on Sunday, Sept. 9, after Brisbane man Joshua Gane posted on Facebook that friend Hoani van Dorp had bitten into a strawberry and swallowed “half a sewing needle” and was in hospital with stomach pains. “We then checked the other strawberries and found another sewing needle lodged inside one of them,” he posted. “They suspect it is foul play, but unsure whether it was via the supplier, Woolworths, or a customer.”
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