AS Queensland farmers continue to struggle with the effects of droughts and bushfires, shoppers are being urged to buy misshapen or blemished produce to help them out, with supermarket giant Coles relaxing their specifications.
Queensland agriculture minister, Mark Furner said the best way to help farmers was to keep buying Australian-grown food, even if it's out of shape, has cosmetic blemishes or is smaller than usual.
"We know that many retailers, such as Coles, have been helping drought and bushfire affected producers by paying higher wholesale prices and accepting produce that may not be to the visual standards customers have become accustomed to expect," he said.
"Mangoes may have a few marks, apples may be a little smaller, but it's important for consumers to know that even if fresh produce doesn't look absolutely perfect, it still tastes just as good - and they'll be helping our farmers at a time when they need it most."
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Stanthorpe horticulturist Tim Carnell's tomatoes and capsicums have been severely impacted by the drought.
"We've been carting water now for about 15 months on and off to different farms," he said.
"At our peak this season we had six tankers running 24 hours a day, seven days a week shifting about 1.2 megalitres a day. That comes at an incredible cost to our business."
Mr Carnell said one of the farms was pelted by golf-ball sized hail in December, with 50 acres of capsicums affected.
"We spread ourselves out across 10 or 12 different growing sites so we'll see a delay in some of our production in February and March with that," he said.
"With initiatives like this with Coles we're able to send some of those more blemished fruit and make a return from that.
"The worst thing for us would be for shoppers to turn their nose up at tomatoes that might not be as firm or big, or capsicums that are slightly misshaped."
Growcom chief executive officer, David Thomson, said waste was a big problem for the industry in Queensland with about 25 per cent of produce never making it to market.
"Too much of our produce has been wasted because it hasn't met specifications," he said.
Mr Thomson said he hoped these kinds of initiatives would allow more off-spec produce to make it to market.
Coles Group CEO, Steven Cain, said the company had been working closely with farmers to adjust product specifications where necessary.
"Our customers are very keen to support Australian farmers, so we're hoping they join us in looking beyond a few surface imperfections - the beauty of Australian produce is certainly more than skin deep," he said.
The story Shoppers urged to eat blemished fruit and veg to help farmers first appeared on Queensland Country Life.