Peeling off dollars

By DARREN COYNE

SOME would argue that it's the prices that have gone bananas.

Since cyclones flattened 85 per cent of the North Queensland banana industry earlier this year, prices for bananas have gone from around $10 a carton to $100 a carton, with each carton containing 13 kilos.

That 1000 per cent increase has led to reports of bananas being stolen from plantations near Coffs Harbour and rumours this week that bananas are being stolen from growers on the Tweed.

Arthur Akehurst, Murwillumbah horticulturist with the Department of Primary Industries, said he'd heard unconfirmed reports of local banana thefts.

Mr Akehurst said although the prices were high at present they had to be seen in the context that consumers had enjoyed banana prices for a long time which were hurting

producers of the popular fruit.

"In all honesty this will help get a lot of growers out of trouble.

"They've been scratching a living for so long and this will help them pay some debt and get back on their feet," Mr Akehurst said.

And while the price of bananas has skyrocketed, there are still bargains to be had locally.

In recent times bananas have been available in Burringbar for $2 a kilo, and in Murwillumbah for around $6 a kilo. They may have some skin blemish, but are perfectly okay to eat.

Mr Akehurst said the industry from the Clarence to Murwillumbah, made up of 400 growers, was worth about $30 million a year or half the country's production.

While Queensland growers were racing to get back into production, Mr Akehurst said he wouldn't be surprised if prices continued to rise.



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