FREMANTLE council has whipped together a one-day strawberry festival tomorrow (Sunday September 23) to give locals a chance to show their support for beleaguered growers.
The tampering crisis deepened this week with WA police confirming they are investigating 10 incidents where needles had been reported in fruit, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel primary school in Hilton, another school in Bicton and homes in Spearwood and Bull Creek.
To help try to restore confidence in their product, growers are donating 25,000 punnets to restaurants and cafes along the Cappuccino Strip for Sunday’s event.
The event was the brainchild of exporter John Da Silva, whose company Bell Vista Fruit & Veg was a mainstay along Hampton Road in South Fremantle for years until their recent relocation to Cannington.
Mr Da Silva’s exports have dried up as country after country places bans on Australian strawberries and he says it’s devastating seeing such a glut of fruit.
He decided the best way to counter the problem was to get locals to gorge on strawberries – the only other option is to bury them.
“We are, you are Australian,” he quoted the popular song.
“These families have been working and preparing for months, planting, fertilising and waiting for the fruit to come, and then this…” he trails off.
Le Bach and his family are one of the many small companies affected by the “devastating” crisis.
“It’s been very stressful because strawberries are delicate and we don’t have time to wait to see how this is going to pan out,” Mr Bach told the Herald.
“This is the period when growers start to recoup their costs so they can get ready for next year, but there is no demand. We’ve never seen anything like this before.
“Our family is like most of the others, mum and dad growers, and to have your income cut suddenly like that – what are you going to do.”
Mr Bach says they decided to appeal directly to consumers for support, saying most of the media on the issue is dominated by the latest needle find.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the council was happy to support the event.
“Fremantle is famous for its fabulous restaurants and cafes, and I’m sure they’ll be able to come up with some amazing new recipes using fresh WA strawberries,” Dr Pettitt said.
The council will put on family-friendly activities, including face painting and live music at the festival, which runs noon to 3pm.
by STEVE GRANT