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Blemished fruit dumped despite perfect eating quality

Eliza Rogers/Lucinda Kent, Monday June 24, 2013 - 07:32 EST
ABC image
Gayndah citrus farmer Ken Roth dumped hundreds of tonnes of mandarins because prices made it unviable to pick. - ABC
ABC image
Gayndah citrus farmer Ken Roth dumped hundreds of tonnes of mandarins because prices made it unviable to pick. - ABC

Hundreds of tonnes of citrus in Queensland's flood-affected Burnett region have been left to rot, and mountains of melons have also been left to the birds.

One major buyer and marketer says thousands of tonnes of watermelons have gone to waste over the past few months because the wet weather caused the flesh inside to crack.

He says the cracks don't change the eating quality of the fruit, but do make it unmarketable.

"For the farmer, that means disaster, because either they get left in the paddock, or, if they are graded as first-grade in the paddocks, they're rejected from the
supermarket, and have to be sold at any offering price or in some cases dumped."

He says growers' returns have dipped as low as $300 per tonne below the cost of production.

Like Mr Beeston, other produce marketers and even the State Government have been appealing to retailers and consumers to buy and eat flood-damaged produce.

The Member for Burnett Steven Bennett says the government has made a deal with Woolworths for the retail giant to support flood-affected farmers rather than import citrus.

But he says Coles, IGA and even the local canneries are not yet on board.

"I think people have a corporate responsibility to make sure that we help the flood-hit farmers... and we continue to call on major supermarket chains to stock our local produce."

Coles has told the ABC it works closely with suppliers to get the best outcome for customers and farmers, and is continuing to buy flood-marked fruit.

The CEO of Citrus Australia Judith Damiani says that, overall, the markets have been very supportive of this year's setbacks.

She says Citrus Australia did a lot of post-flood work to determine damage, feed information back to markets and encourage their help.

Woolworths says it's been labelling flood-marked foods to inform shoppers, and Mrs Damiani says knowledge is key to better supporting producers.

"I think there needs to be more education to tell people about how their food is grown and to expect variations; I think people do tend to be forgiving."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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