Bowen Crop Sabotage
The town of Bowen in North Queensland has suffered its fourth case of crop sabotage in ten years last week. The damage caused in this most recent incident though goes far beyond the previous cases.
It is estimated that up to $23 million could be lost from the local economy as a result of herbicide being introduced into the watering system of a local plant nursery.
Worst affected were tomato seedlings, with up to seven million plants destroyed, other vegetables and fruits also damaged include melons, zucchinis, eggplants and capsicum.
Whilst a number of plant types were affected, it is the destruction of the tomato seedlings that has the growers most concerned, as the sheer number involved means the price of tomatoes in stores from September could potentially triple.
Queensland Police are considering offering a reward of up to $200,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Local police are asking any locals with information to come forward, as at this stage all possible motives are being considered.
Detective Sergeant Dave Miles said they are conducting a criminal investigation and considering a number of theories.
"We can't at this stage rule out what the motive is, it could be a personal vendetta or grudge someone may hold; it may be a chance for someone to influence the market; or it could be purely competition based by someone trying to gain an advantage over another producer or grower in the area”.
In an effort to keep themselves afloat and maintain employment for pickers, local growers are considering harvesting more than once from their plants rather than the usual practice of pruning back the secondary fruit.
Local grower Dale Williams says the poisoning may cost his business $600 000 this season, and others are facing much higher costs of up to several million dollars.
The last time growers in this region faced such a crisis was due to Cyclone Larry, when banana crops were decimated causing prices to jump up to around $10 p/kg for almost a year.
Bowen relies heavily on crops and tourism icons such as The Big Mango for its local economy, Bowen is most famous for the Bowen Mango, but more recently it was chosen as the main location for the filming of Baz Luhrman’s epic “Australia” for which the town has now added a “Bowenwood” sign to a local hilltop water tank.
Photo: Micahel Palmer