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How Australia's strawberry scare has sparked a wave of unexpected solidarity for our farmers.

Last Wednesday, reports began about to emerge about sewing needles found hidden in at least three punnets of strawberries in Queensland.

Over the next few days, strawberries containing needles were found in every Australian state, and reports also surfaced about needles in apples, bananas and mangoes. It’s been labelled an act of ‘consumer terrorism’.

Late last week, strawberries were taken off the shelves, and consumers were encouraged to return or dispose of their strawberries.

The unexpected consequence of the scare, however, has been the financial and emotional toll it’s had on growers.

On Tuesday, Stephanie Chheang, the daughter of Donnybrook Berries co-owner Leena Lee Cufari, shared footage of the impact the ongoing scare has had on her family’s Queensland business. A truckload of fruit, dumped – just in case.

“This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family,” she wrote on Facebook. “This here is worth more then you could ever imagine and within three days we lost it all.

“My mum and my step dad has worked years to build the empire they’re sitting on now, they put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business. They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting. [sic]”

The toll on farmers has been so devastating that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday announced a $1 million fund to assist strawberry growers in her state.

“The crop is worth $160 million — it is the lifeblood for 150 growers and their workforces,” she said in parliament.

“Police are having to deal with not only the original contamination, but also apparent copycats.

“This is an attack on all of us.”

In response to the growing awareness of the impact these incidents have had on Australian farmers, social media users have started a campaign calling for consumers to “cut ’em up, don’t cut ’em out”.

The hashtag #smashastrawb began as a way to support Australian farmers and their livelihood – with hundreds of people sharing their favourite strawberry recipes.

It’s an act of unexpected solidarity, at a time strawberry farmers need it most.

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