July marks the beginning of strawberry season in Bundaberg, a time when the local supermarkets are heaving with a range of delicious varieties from local growers.
The beginning of the strawberry season couldn’t come at a better time with research from Nielsen showing that consumer demand has increased, and people are buying more fresh produce with an increase of 5 per cent over the past few months.
Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers managing director, Bree Grima said the region's growers had been taking advantage of recent favourable weather conditions and an earlier start.
“The cooler weather has been quite favourable for the strawberry growers, as that can reduce pest and disease activity and slightly prolong their season as well,” she said.
“We’re really lucky in this region, in that we have a window of opportunity.
“We commence just a few weeks prior to other regions and that gives us a chance to have our fruit on the market earlier.
“At the moment we’re expecting to hit peak in about another four weeks’ time around about August and for some producers, depending on what they grow, this will go through until around about October.”
Slow start to season, but strong finish
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.
SSS Strawberries' Thanh Dang said that despite a slow start, the family-run business were expecting a busy season.
“The season has been pretty slow to start, but it’s starting to pick up now,” Thanh said.
“The weather has actually been cold and that has helped the fruit gain in size and taste. We’re also expecting the weather to become a little bit warmer this year than usual, and when that happens the crop will begin to flourish.
“Generally, we do around 2,000 tonne per season in terms of marketable fruit. This year we’ve expanded a little bit more, so just a little bit under twice the size we’ve previously had, so expecting a busy season.”
Size does matter
Each year SSS Strawberries open their doors to visitors who are able to pick strawberries for themselves, starting around August.
It’s the size of the strawberries this year that has impressed many, including Thanh.
“We generally pack strawberries into a punnet of 250 grams and one of the largest sizes I’ve seen was two of them would fill that entire punnet,” Thanh said.
“So, two fruits in a whole punnet.”
Strawberry growers in the region contribute about $35 million of farm-gate value and make up 16 per cent of the state’s production.