Rush on Aussie berries
LEONGATHA North berry growers Chris and Sue Howard have been inundated by requests for frozen berries in the wake of foreign berries infecting consumers with Hepatitis A.
“We have had phone call after phone call,” Mrs Howard said.
“The demand has at least tripled.”
Victorians were shocked to learn the berries at the centre of the Hepatitis A outbreak were imported from China.
The berries grown at the Howards’ Koorooman Blueberries farm are certified organic.
No spray is used on the crop and irrigation comes from a spring on the property.
“Chemicals are not a part of what we do,” Mr Howard said.
The Hepatitis A outbreak brought the import of frozen berries from China to an abrupt halt.
It also brought hundreds of people to Koorooman Blueberries’ end of season pick your own berries on the weekend.
“It was a little hot but we had a steady stream of people who managed to pick and everyone was happy,” Mr Howard said.
“At one stage there would have been 100 people in the blueberry patch.”
Since the picking season began, two tonnes of berries have been picked from the one enclosure of 750 plants.
The berries find their way to all corners of the state, everywhere from the health food outlets in Leongatha and Inverloch to the Footscray Market which receives 60 trays containing 12 punnets each, every week.
“Plus we sell frozen berries. The organic food industry gives people a choice,” Mrs Howard said.
Mr Howard said people are welded to the concept of cheap food but ignore the negative aspects of it, such as flavour at one end of the scale and genetic modification at the other.
“The certified organic industry does not admit genetically modified food,” he said.
Mr Howard disputes views expressed on a segment on the imported foods issue on The Conversation Hour with Jon Faine on ABC radio last week.
Listeners were calling in bemoaning having little choice, but the Howards said people do.
Andrea Millsom, The Greens candidate for Gippsland South in the upcoming by-election, said, “South Gippsland has huge untapped potential.”
“We can produce more locally and what’s more increasing food production in the area provides careers for kids,” she said.
By Stuart Biggins
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