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Call to buy Bowen after seedling sabotage -

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Broadcast: 23/07/2010

Reporter: Megan Woodward

Farmers in the north Queensland community of Bowen are urging Australian shoppers to buy their
produce after future tomato and capsicum crops were sabotaged.

Transcript

TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER: The nation's shoppers are being urged to buy Bowen after last month's
sabotage of vegetable seedlings in Queensland's north.

Millions of young tomato plants, as well as capsicum and eggplant, were poisoned, and the police
are still looking for the culprit.

Growers are asking Australians to do their bit and buy more produce from the area, even if prices
double or triple over coming months.

Megan Woodward reports from Bowen.

MEGAN WOODWARD, REPORTER: After more than a decade of industry rationalisation, the tomato farmers
who remain in the Bowen region are true survivors.

In the '90s, about 160 producers grew here; now, there are fewer than 20. And last month's
herbicide poisoning of about seven million tomato seedlings could spell the end for more growers.

CARL WALKER, BOWEN GUMLU GROWERS ASSN: It's a bit like waiting for the flood at Charleville. You
know, you know the water's coming; you're not sure how deep it's gonna be.

MEGAN WOODWARD: Carl Walker dodged the poisoning bullet at his property, but as the president of
the Local Growers' Association, he knows what's at stake. He's appealing for all Australians to buy
Bowen produce before the shortage kicks in in September.

CARL WALKER: If you buy more now, hopefully it'll push the price up a little bit so growers will
pick up a few dollars so that there won't be such a big hole to fill up, because normally
September's the month where we make money. That's our money-making month.

MEGAN WOODWARD: Some farmers have managed to source tomato seedlings from other growing regions or
planted different crops to try to soften the financial blow.

The poisoning has created uncertainty in the local business community and has already affected
labour requirements.

DAVID EVANS, BOWEN COLLINSVILLE ENTERPRISE: It will also impact on the decisions that seasonal
workers take to remain in the area if they are faced with a loss of four or five weeks' work. They
may finish the season early and move on.

MEGAN WOODWARD: Police say the investigation is slow and difficult. They say what some might think
is innocent chatter could be vital information.

DAVE MILES, QLD POLICE: Whether that is rumour, innuendo or just general gossip, what we're asking:
come forward, tell us about it, let us make a determination whether there's anything that needs to
be followed up further as part of our investigation.

MEGAN WOODWARD: A specialist taskforce from Brisbane is also helping with inquiries.

Megan Woodward, Lateline.