Baby Blue bananas losing their appeal
By BELINDA SCOTT
SUB-TROPICAL banana promotion is having trouble getting off first base.
Only three growers attended a recent Woolgoolga meeting on the Baby Blue banana branding and marketing project and only one of those has been supplying fruit for the campaign.
Robert Pike and Mal Husna, who is currently overseas, are the only two growers currently sending fruit to market in support of the Baby Blue marketing and labelling campaign.
High prices for all bananas since Cyclone Larry hit the Tully area of North Queensland in March are threatening to derail efforts to establish a permanent niche market for the smaller, sweeter NSW fruit.
This month's meeting was also attended by representatives of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Bananas NSW, State and Regional Development, banana wholesaler Greg Bradshaw of PW Chew & Co, who is marketing Baby Blue and facilitator Graham Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson said he was extremely disappointed with the turnout and it was important to find out what had gone wrong.
Taylors Arm grower Steve Spear said he had not joined the campaign because he had been supporting his own banana merchant during the shortage, but he said he believed the campaign was 'five to 10 years too late' as there was not enough fruit available to ensure a regular supply.
Woolgoolga grower Ron Gray said he did not consider his fruit had been of good enough quality to include in the marketing push.
Wholesaler Greg Bradshaw said the most important factor was consistency. He said while he had clients who were now choosing Baby Blue bananas, the limited supply of fruit had hampered the campaign and NSW growers as a whole had made only a minimal contribution to banana industry promotion funding.
Robert Pike said he had continued to send fruit through Baby Blue in order to support the industry and the returns had been on par with sales through other outlets.
He said he expected the effects of Cyclone Larry on the market to last for about two years.
Bob Campbell, the chief executive officer of Bananas NSW, said the perception of subtropical bananas had made some headway during the year with many callers to his office commenting that 'you've got the flavour back in bananas'.
He said Geckho's Bananas, a controlled subtropical banana marketing group based at Boambee, was also going well two years after it was established.
Ron Gray said although prices had been good in 2006 'if you look around the hills a lot of bananas have gone.