Banana price hike on way

By PETER CATON

PRICES for bananas are set to soar after Cyclone Larry wiped out 95 per cent of the nation's plantations in North Queensland.

But in northern NSW - once the core of the New South Wales banana industry - the few remaining, long-battling banana farmers are bound to benefit after 20 years of depressed prices.

In Murwillumbah, previously the home of the now-defunct Banana Growers Federation, prices for local bananas are tipped to jump from $2 to $3 a kilogram.

Queensland banana industry chiefs have predicted prices could even hit $6 a kilogram.

"You'll be able to sell anything now, even second quality stuff," said longtime Murwillumbah grower Gordon Harris, now retired, who leases seven hectares of his former farm to another grower.

"Traditionally prices go sky high after something like this.

"When you have a lot of fruit grown in one area and you get a cyclone there, it virtually wipes the whole industry out. Those who survive do well."

Most Tweed growers have abandoned the cavendish variety which grows far larger in North Queensland, instead favouring smaller and arguably tastier ladyfinger and goldfinger varieties.

But Mr Harris said it "wouldn't matter what banana you have now - it would get a good price".

Manmohan Janda, proprietor of Singh's IGA Everday supermarket who insists on growing locally grown bananas, said he was sorry for North Queensland farmers who had lost homes and crops, but happy for the local growers.

"If prices do go up I don't mind, because the local farmers benefit.

"If you look at old advertisements from 1970 you will see how much everything has gone up, but bananas have not gone up at all. And those poor guys work so hard. I don't mind if banana prices go up."

Mr Janda said he expected bananas now selling for $2 a kilogram would reach $3 a kilogram.

Australian Banana Growers Council vice-president Nicky Singh, a grower at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales, said other banana-growing districts would not be able to meet demand.

Unlike banana growers, Tweed canegrowers expect no difference in the price of sugar following devastation of much of the North Queensland crop.

Tweed canegrowers president Graeme Martin said prices were set on a world market and would not be affected by the North Queensland damage.



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