Turners Beach Berry Patch inventive with excess strawberries

BIDING TIME: Craig Morris at the beginning of what he was expecting to be a bumper berry season at Turners Beach Berry Patch. Picture: Cordell Richardson
BIDING TIME: Craig Morris at the beginning of what he was expecting to be a bumper berry season at Turners Beach Berry Patch. Picture: Cordell Richardson

There have been no further detections of fruit fly in Tasmania since January 24, but Turners Beach fruit grower Craig Morris still needs to be inventive with tonnes of ripe strawberries that cannot leave the site because he operates within the control zone.

Properties within a 15-kilometre radius of Spreyton, where fruit fly was discovered in a backyard apricot tree last week, are subject to Biosecurity Tasmania’s control zone until further notice.

As the Turners Beach Berry Patch falls within this zone fruit has not left the farm since Friday.

“This is our third day of lost production. We don’t know how much this has cost yet, but our local customers haven’t had our fruit deliveries since Friday,” Mr Morris said.

At this point in the season Turners Beach Berry Patch is picking up to three tonnes of strawberries each day, so Mr Morris is looking for ways to use the excess berries.

“We’re freezing them, making jam and ice cream, but we already have 14 tonne in the freezer,” he said.

“There are limitations on our pick-your-own berries so it’s pick what you can eat. That’s been quite comical to see how many strawberries people can eat.”

Biosecurity Tasmania is holding a fruit fly stakeholders meeting at Stony Rise, near Devonport, on Monday afternoon, which Mr Morris hopes will answer some of his operational questions.

“We’re hoping we’ll get some clarity on pick your own and our farm shop soon,” Mr Morris said.

“We’ve got to protect the others in the industry. We will refrain from selling fruit until we have a clean bill of health.”

Two biosecurity officers spent Monday checking the Turners Beach farm for signs of fruit fly and also examining 600 pieces of fruit.

These checks will continue each day, Mr Morris understands.

“Biosecurity is also looking at other possibilities to protect out fruit fly free status,” he said.

Mr Morris has seen the damage fruit fly can cause in Queensland, but has never seen any sign of the insect on his Tasmanian farm.

Parks Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department staff, including Biosecurity Tasmania officers, are continuing surveillance, control actions and responding to public reports of suspected fruit fly sightings.

A department spokesman said all public reports were checked, but at this stage they had all been negative.

He praised the Tasmania’s response to fruit fly detections and said it has been “fantastic vigilance from the community”.

Fruit and vegetable imports from mainland Australia are not affected by Biosecurity Tasmania’s control zone but are subject to the usual entry requirements prior to entry.

“DPIPWE is continuing to work with the industry to identify ways of mitigating impacts,” the spokesman said.

Entomology has confirmed Queensland fruit fly at the first site on Flinders Island and testing is continuing on the larvae from the remaining three sites.

Fruit fly larvae look like blowfly maggots and are usually easy to see in the fruit flesh.

People are required by law to report any signs of fruit fly on their property to the Biosecurity Operations Centre on 6165 3774.

More information about fruit fly can be found at the department’s website.