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Queensland strawberries bounce back after COVID-19, needles, drought

“I’m really excited about the weather at the moment, we’re having a bit of a winter,” he said.

“I personally don’t like the cold, but it’s fabulous for the strawberries.

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“It slows production down, fattens them up, and gets those sugars into them.

“We’re hoping we don’t get a glut of strawberries in August and September – we hope the season will be more spread out and we hope the price of strawberries maintains current levels.”

The needle tampering incident two years ago forced tonnes of strawberries to be discarded and while the drought last year did not affect farmers directly, it weakened their ability to supply.

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“We’re way past the needles now, it’s something that happened, we dealt with it and moved past it,” Mr Schultz said.

“The drought hasn’t affected the fruit growers directly, but it has affected the runners who supply our strawberry plants.

“Some have started growing strawberry plants on blocks of land they have never used before to try and keep us farmers supplied.”

Farmers have worked with Queensland Health and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to keep operations running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID arrived at the beginning of the season, so there was a scramble to try to adjust to everything … and we put in the protocols required,” Mr Schultz said.

Adrian Schultz is encouraging everyone to "pop another punnet in your basket".

Adrian Schultz is encouraging everyone to “pop another punnet in your basket”.

“Strawberry farmers have done a really great job in reducing the potential exposure to COVID, a number of local farms have been visited by Queensland Health and been given a clean bill of health.”

Through temperature checks, smaller working groups, sanitisation and record-keeping, production has continued on strawberry farms, but there are grave concerns for next season.

“This season we think we’re going to be pretty much OK [in terms of having enough backpackers and seasonal workers to help with the harvest],” Mr Schultz said.

“It’s next season we’re worrying about, the backpackers are leaving, but not coming back in.

“We’re hoping on an industry level to engage with the state government for a program to pay for backpackers’ quarantine costs and encourage them to back into Queensland next season.”

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