'We lost it all': Farming family's heartbreaking video amid strawberry crisis

Samuel Hussey
News Reporter


The devastated daughter of an all but ruined Queensland strawberry farmer has shared her family’s distress at having to dump truckloads of fruit as a result of the needle contamination scare.

Stephanie Chheang revealed how hard her family had been hit by the fruit sabotage,  showing footage of trucks dumping entire loads of wasted fruit on the ground.

She is angry that the reckless behaviour, experienced in towns around the country, is threatening to bring down the Donnybrook Berries business that her mum and step-dad spent years creating.

“This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family… within three days we lost it all,” Ms Chheang wrote in an emotional Facebook post.

Ms Chheang said her Donnybrook Berries family business has had to dump truck loads of strawberries because supermarkets are refusing to stock them amid the needle scare. Images: Cindy Vutha and Stephanie Chheang via Storyful

“They put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business,” she said.

“They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting.”

“My mum works day through to the night, controlling the shed and her 250 employees, making sure her strawberries are packed to perfection.”

Her family weren’t the only fruit farmers forced to discard tons of produce.

Glass House Mountains farmer Leonard Smith was forced to burn off 500,000 unsellable plants on the weekend as it was cheaper to destroy them than pick them.

There have been reports of needles being found in strawberries around the country. Image: 7 News

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said “commercial terrorism” was bringing an industry to its knees.

Despite the major setback and fears of copycat sabotaging Ms Chheang remains confident her family and the rest of the industry can overcome it.

“This will not stop my family from doing what they do best, if anything they’re going to do better. I thank everyone who supports us and all the other farmers who were affected by this horrible issue. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

$1 million funding for sabotaged farmers

Their loss will be eased slightly after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $1 million fund to help farmers bounce back and restore consumer confidence in fruit stocks.

“The sabotage of our strawberry industry is not just an attack on hard-working growers and workers, but it reaches into almost every home and school lunch box,” she told parliament on Tuesday.

A mother in Sydney’s northwest said she found a needle hidden in an apple she was about to serve her daughter. Images: 7 News

“The community needs to come together and help police catch those responsible and restore our industry to the place of pride it deserves.”

NSW Police are investigating how a needle ended up in a Woolworths apple that a Sydney mother was about to serve to her daughters.

A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.