Banana farmers a dying bunch
COULD Bob Campbell be the last of a dying bunch?
As the Banana Festival enters its 50th year, the Tweed doesn't even have enough banana farmers to meet growing demand from local shops.
Mr Campbell believes that means opportunity is knocking.
He has retired from the farm but is now the executive officer of New South Wales Bananas, heading up an industry which on the Tweed is worth $26 million a year.
But the industry has declined in the last 10 years, a trend reflected across the state with plantations falling from 5000 hectares to 2400 hectares in that time.
"The lower prices caused by the over-supply of bananas from North Queensland have forced a lot of banana growers out of the industry and that's the main reason," Mr Campbell said.
"Others have retired or diversified into other industries, others have sold their land and got out of the industry altogether.
"There's a number of reasons for the shortage but the good news is, the local demand for our good-tasting bananas remains high."
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Mr Campbell said NSW Bananas was encouraging young growers to come into the industry.
It also wants seasoned growers who have been thwarted by the Panama disease affecting their ladyfinger crops to come back into the industry and focus on the Panama-disease-resistant bananas, cavendish, goldfinger and bananza.
"There's a local market for these bananas.
"The New South Wales banana is tastier than the tropical fruit, so they are in de- mand and we are encouraging growers to get back into the industry," Mr Campbell said.
"We are short of fruit and have been short for a couple of years now. So there is that opportunity for growers to come into the industry and rebuild."