To combat the recent strawberry contamination scare, the Royal Agricultural Society of WA (RASWA) ran an initiative titled Smash a Strawb at the 2018 IGA Perth Royal Show. The initiative was recognised with an award at the recent IAFE convention in Texas. The following case study outlines the initiative, why it was conducted and what the results were.
At the 2018 IGA Perth Royal Show, RASWA provided a free 6×3 metre site to the WA Strawberry Growers Association to sell and promote strawberries. The offer was the result of a strawberry contamination scare in Australia involving metal pins in strawberries which caused supermarkets to recall brands and farmers to dump fruit. Two distributors from multiple producers delivered the strawberries (which had been through a metal detector conveyor belt) and were sold to the public, whilst industry members openly spoke about the incidents to reassure the public of the current precautions implemented.
Consumers in Queensland, Australia were the first to report finding small needles within strawberries, with reports extending Australia wide. This led to strawberry growers dumping their products in peak season with consumer fears heightened, which could not be allayed and the slump in purchasing continued with some growers not able to afford to plant crops the following year. As RASWA proudly supports and promotes agriculture, and our mission includes educating those in metropolitan areas about agricultural issues, we felt it relevant to support strawberry growers during this current crisis.
RASWA worked closely with the Director of Horticulture at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) to support the Strawberry Growers Association of WA. DPIRD handle major biosecurity issues and along with RASWA felt it necessary to be part of this cause and support the strawberry growers. The Western Australian Premier, Hon. Mark McGowan also spoke with RASWA President, Paul Carter and raised his concerns regarding the strawberry industry. RASWA provided a retail site (6x3metres) valued at $7,000 AUD and DPIRD provided approximately $1,800 AUD in signage and infrastructure to the site. The site was manned by during the 8 days of the 2018 IGA Perth Royal Show, 22-29 September.
The public were very supportive of the display and the situation that the strawberry growers are currently facing. Almost all of those visiting the site were aware of the situation, but many of those did not know how the strawberry growers were implementing measures to ensure there were no further contamination issues. It was positively received by the strawberry growers to know that RASWA was supporting them in their attempts to curtail the current issues faced and return consumer confidence.