The strawberry industry has bounced back from last year's needle contamination scare and growers are hoping that community support will continue when picking starts in 6-8 weeks.
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said conditions had been fairly good for strawberries, with no storms or hail.
Ms Grima said picking starts earlier in the Bundaberg Region than other places, which gives local producers first-market access and a competitive price.
“While we're not the largest growing area in Australia for strawberries, we play an important role in starting the season with our early-harvest window,” she said.
“Growers are generally confident and optimistic about the season ahead.
“The community rallied behind the industry last year. They could see the contamination wasn't their fault, it was out of their hands.
“The support was absolutely amazing and we hope it continues.”
Strawberry fields forever
SSS Strawberries chief financial officer Toan Nguyen said his family-run business was anticipating a bumper crop of 2.7 million plants this year.
“That's an expected harvest of around 2000 tonnes of strawberries,” he said.
SSS Strawberries is run by the second generation of the Dang family's sons and daughters: Victor, Tam, Toan, Gina, Trini and Rena.
The business on Rosedale Road employs more than 300 casual staff each year, with picking scheduled to begin in May.
“We are looking forward to supplying the most juicy and delicious strawberries to the people of Australia and seeing the joy and excitement on the kids' faces as they eat their strawberries,” Mr Nguyen said.
Positive outlook for season ahead
After a turbulent 2018 for strawberry farmers across Australia, Mr Nguyen said this season would hopefully be a success.
Last year, farmers throughout the nation suffered massive losses after a string of incidents involving strawberries contaminated with needles that were shipped around the country and sold at grocery stores.
Supermarkets were forced to pull punnets off the shelves with tonnes of fruit dumped at the peak of the growing season.
“Luckily we were at the tail end of our season so the effect here was minor compared to other farmers,” Mr Nguyen said.
“Overall we had overwhelming support from the community judging by the turnout during the Strawberry Festival with about 7000 people attending.”
Mr Nguyen said the strawberry season was a huge benefit to the region.
“With over 300 staff and close to 100 business partners, our local economy will be prosperous as people will be living and spending money in the community,” he said.
“This will cause a ripple effect as local businesses gain confidence and hopefully invest back into the community, creating more job opportunities for everyone.”
Mayor Jack Dempsey said the strawberry industry is an important driver of the regional economy.
“It's a big employer and a high-value crop,” he said.
“The industry is very resilient but still needs community support to overcome the setbacks experienced last year.
“Strawberries are a tasty treat, eat as many as you can!”