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Agricultural sabotage not the first, say poli -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Back to our part of the world and farmers in North Queensland are warning
shoppers nationwide to expect a hike in fruit and vegetable prices.

Seven million seedlings were deliberately poisoned in the country's winter food bowl.

Police investigating the sabotage say there have been three similar attacks over recent years.

Josh Bavas reports.

JOSH BAVAS, REPORTER: It took just one night to wipe out the bulk of North Queensland's next season
of fruit and vegetable crops.

CARL WALKER, DISTRICT GROWERS ASSOCIATION: It's too late to get more seedlings now. So pretty much
anyone who has lost seedlings now, it's over for the year because it is too late to seed.

JOSH BAVAS: The seedlings were expected to produce 16,000 tonnes of tomatoes, capsicums and melons
bound for Australian and overseas markets.

ANN MCGOWEN, LOCAL RESIDENT: Which is just dreadful because it involves so many workers and
people's lives and the whole area.

JOSH BAVAS: Police are still sifting through evidence to find out who pumped the lethal dose of
herbicide into the irrigation system almost two weeks ago. More than 3,000 fruit pickers know their
paydays are numbered as there'll no longer be a September harvest.

PICKER: If they catch 'em mate I hope they string 'em up.

JOSH BAVAS: Rumours are rife throughout the community but police are urging residents to let
justice take its course.

ACTING DETECTIVE INSPECTOR DAVE MILES, QUEENSLAND POLICE: Obviously the businesses at this stage
are fairly devastated by what's occurred. It's a large impact on their livelihood. They're working
together and also with members of the Bowen District Growers Association and other farmers to try
and find some way to move forward from this event and get some other parts of their industry to
support them.

JOSH BAVAS: The economic impact on the industry is expected to cost more than $23 million.

Producers expect the price hike to hit the shelves in September affecting grocery stores around the
country and even as far abroad as Vanuatu and New Zealand.

But farmers say they'll try to stretch out their current crops to minimise the price hike.

CARL WALKER: Come September there's gonna be 40 per cent less going out than there should be. So,
40 per cent less labour, 40 per cent less income for the town.

JOSH BAVAS: Police are considering a reward to catch the saboteur.

Josh Bavas, Lateline.