Bumper banana year nearly over

Banana grower David Pike inspects an emerging bunch on his Coffs Harbour plantation.
Banana grower David Pike inspects an emerging bunch on his Coffs Harbour plantation. Rob Wright

COFFS COAST growers still have at least a month before banana production from North Queensland reaches 'normal' production levels and they have to settle for lower prices.

The Australian Banana Growers Council says peak production will be achieved in November, nine months after Cyclone Yasi destroyed crops in the top Queensland banana growing areas of Innisfail and Cardwell in early February.

The disaster affected 75 per cent of the national industry, but provided a huge boost for Coffs Coast growers.

Mid North Coast district horticulturist Steve Newley said growers had more money to spend on fertiliser and labour this year.

He said although most growers who remained committed to the industry already did a pretty good job, the extra cash flow had helped in cleaning up after winter storms.

Coffs Harbour banana grower David Pike said he was confident that bananas were not about to hit the central markets in big numbers just yet. "It's not like Cyclone Larry," Mr Pike said.

After North Queensland banana-growing regions recovered from Cyclone Larry in 2007, huge quantities of bananas hit the market, causing an enormous oversupply of the fruit.

Mr Pike said prices had dropped a couple of weeks ago, but then had climbed back up again.

Three of the banana growers interviewed this week have diversified.

David Pike is building shade houses for hydroponic cucumber growing; Wally Borsato has interests in excavation, and Satpal Gill is also growing blueberries.

Mr Borsato said he had bought a few essentials and updated some of his spraying equipment. "I only hope the industry sees that it should keep some NSW growers going," he said.

"NSW has helped fill the gap - if not for that, we would definitely have had imports."

Like Mr Pike, he is confident prices won't drop to "ridiculously low" levels.

Topics:  banana farmers fruit produce

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