The Australian berry industry is continuing efforts to reverse the damage from a string of incidents involving sewing needles in strawberries (and other fruit) earlier this year.

The federal government has granted an A$650,000 (US$47,000) assistance package to new peak industry body Berries Australia to help restore consumer confidence.

Berries Australia Chair Peter McPherson said the recent impact on strawberry growers showed the economic vulnerability of Australian farmers to the sabotage which was beyond their control.

“Consumer confidence at home and overseas is critical for Australia’s reputation as a source of safe fresh food and a lot is currently being invested in promoting both on-farm safeguards and the systems in place from farmgate to consumer,” said McPherson.

“It is also important to remember that the strawberries incident was beyond the influence and control of growers and it’s essential that any program developed is national, integrated and based on the real needs of the horticulture sector, and doesn’t impose more costs on farmers already struggling in a tough environment.”

Earlier this month the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association, alongside Growcom appointed Lana Baskerville as strawberry industry recovery officer. Baskerville will help connect growers to various assistance packages, and her appointment is part of an A$1m strawberry industry support package from the Queensland Government.