By Kaia Wallis
Locally grown strawberries are making their way out of the field and onto the shelves as local growers celebrate the start of the 2018 South Australian strawberry season.
The first fruits of the season went under the hammer on Saturday October 27 in a live auction held at the Adelaide Central Market for I Choose SA Day, with a winning bid of $17,500 thousand made by Romeo’s Retail Group.
The auction kicked off the launch of the SA strawberry season, which will run from November to May 2019 with an expected yield of 6000 tonnes – enough strawberries to stretch 15kms, if laid end to end.
Fifteen punnets of freshly picked strawberries from various local growers were included in the lucrative prize, with the winning money raised donated to Variety – the Children’s Charity of SA.
Brian Parker – owner of A.F. Parker and Sons – says consumers have shown strong support for the industry after needles were found planted in interstate strawberries in September.
SA strawberries were just a few weeks out from the beginning of the season at the time, and Brian now urges South Australians to pick local growers when buying punnets of the fruit.
“A week after it happened, everyone was showing their support for the strawberry industry,” he says.
“Now, it’s very important to support the local strawberry industry.”
A.F. Parker and Sons strawberries are now arriving at stores and Brian, a sixth-generation farmer, is hopeful for the quality of harvest.
“if the weather stays good, we’ll pick another nice bunch of berries,” he says.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone also encourages shoppers to support farmers by purchasing local strawberries and celebrating the industry.
“With local strawberries now coming into season the greatest support South Australians can give our strawberry industry is to buy local,” he says.
“South Australians have a great reputation for backing our producers in times of need.”
Small volumes of the sweet red fruit have started to appear on shelves at independent stores throughout SA and at the SA Produce Market, a wholesale market in Northern Adelaide with a reputation for supporting local growers.
SA Produce Market CEO Angelo Demasi says the first batch of strawberries is now being introduced onto shelves, with the season in full swing by early November.
“Consumers can be assured the strawberry industry is committed to providing fresh, local produce that has been picked and packed by SA families,” he says.
“In 2016–17 SA produced around 6000 tonnes of strawberries with a farmgate value of around $42 million, so it’s really important that we continue to support the industry.”
Adelaide Central Market chair Nick Begakis says the shorter travel distance required from paddock to market for local strawberries ensures fresher produce.
“Strawberries don’t last very long. When they’re picked they need to go to the markets very quickly,” he says.
“So, if they’re in the market today, they were picked yesterday and that’s why they taste so good.”
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.