ROCKMELON growers in North Queensland are demanding major supermarkets provide more support after a listeria outbreak on a NSW farm threatened to cripple their industry.
Burdekin grower Sib Rapisarda, who has been growing rockmelons for 38 years, said “one grower’s stuff up” was having a disastrous effect on the industry.
In what should be the peak of their season, growers are instead leaving fruit to rot in the field after rockmelons were removed from supermarket shelves for a brief period earlier this year.
Consumer demand has not picked up and the industry has taken a hit worth millions of dollars.
- Rockmelons back in stock after listeria outbreak
- Rombola Family Farms has been cleared to resume production after listeria outbreak
- Melon industry to embrace safer food production
Mr Rapisarda said he hadn’t been able to sleep for three months and was doing his best to keep on his 100 staff.
“One bloody grower stuffed it for everybody, it has caused damage to the whole industry and our reputation,” he said.
“I’m picking melons now, getting the best quality fruit I can and I can’t sell it.
“We’re losing money, I’ve been on this farm for 38 years so I’m not just going to shut it down.
“We need a bit of help at the end of the day and the retailers need to get on board and start promoting the product.”
Mr Rapisarda said while consumer demand had declined, supermarkets were not helping to promote the product.
“I’m giving them away at the moment and a lot of good fruit is getting wasted.
“It can’t get any worse than this.
“We’ve done a lot at the end of the day, making sure it is safe, but if the retailers are not stocking them and putting them in the right places, with the right price on them… it has been too slow on the retail side.”
Bowen-Gumlu growers association president Carl Walker said ramifications had been dire and the whole industry was suffering.
“We grow a good, safe product and it was an isolated incident that unfortunately had dire consequences,” Mr Walker said.
“One grower does close to 1000 acres just himself, there’s a hell of a lot grown up here.”
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said Queensland rockmelon sales had been severely impacted by the NSW listeria outbreak.
“I’m told demand is down 50 per cent and both local sales and exports have been impacted by this incident in the southern states,” Mr Furner said.
“Our local industry needs the support of consumers who understand this was an isolated incident which has been linked to only one grower.”
Australian Melon Association chairman Mark Daunt said safety was the main priority for Queensland farmers.