THE federal government has committed $350,000 to a new program to restore confidence in Australian strawberries and ensure local produce is safe to eat.
In announcing the program in late September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, described it as “real money on the table” which will be used to boost markets at home and overseas so growers could sell harvested strawberries.
The new package is being developed alongside peak group Strawberries Australia and will look at:
- Giving consumers confidence their strawberries are safe with tamper-proof packaging;
- Developing better safety procedures on packing lines;
- A campaign to show shoppers what's being done to stop needles getting into strawberries.
The project will work with export markets to ensure trading countries understand the improved food safety measures.
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Mr Morrison said the government had already strengthened export requirements with strawberries being x-rayed and shrink wrapped.
“So far, nearly 100 consignments have been sent overseas under the new conditions,” Mr Morrison said.
“The program forms part of the $1 million our government has announced to support the industry, alongside the assistance offered for strawberry growers through the Farm Household Allowance.
“The cowards undermining our strawberry industry now face tougher punishments for their actions with an increase in the maximum penalty from 10 to 15 years for intentionally contaminating food and changes to ensure Commonwealth laws capture the sabotage of Australia's food supply.
“We will do everything we can to help our farmers, but we urge Australians to get our strawberry growers back on their feet by getting their products on their plates. “