Australian Banana Growers Council director Nicky Singh at work on his West Korora plantation.
Australian Banana Growers Council director Nicky Singh at work on his West Korora plantation.

Banana price war



COFFS Coast banana farmers say they are unlikely to see any benefits from the lifting of a ban on exporting bananas to New Zealand.

The Australian Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, announced on Friday that New Zealand had agreed to allow the import of Australian bananas, following the lifting of a nine-year ban.

The ban was imposed in 1995 because of an outbreak of papaya fruit fly in North Queensland, which was eradicated by 1999.

NSW Department of Primary Industries banana researcher Arthur Akehurst said while New Zealand did not grow papaya or bananas, the papaya fruit fly could attack other fruit.

The vice-president of the Australian Banana Growers Council (ABGC), West Korora banana grower Nicky Singh, said unless local growers could supply a large quantity of fruit through a marketing group, they were unlikely to be able to compete for New Zealand markets.

"It will be down to the importer and what they are used to paying," Mr Singh said.

He said while New Zealanders had said they could buy bananas for 99c a kilogram, Australian consumers could also pay prices as low as 99c a kilogram when there was an oversupply of the fruit in Australia.

Bananas NSW chairman and Nambucca grower Gary McCudden said lifting the NZ ban 'might help North Queensland a bit'.

Woolgoolga grower Ron Gray, a former director of the ABGC and Bananas NSW, said Australian growers trying to move into the NZ market were likely to face a price war with existing suppliers to NZ from Ecuador and Central America.

Mr Gray said attempts to export NSW fruit to NZ in the 1960s during times of over-supply here had encountered problems due to a dispute with Brisbane wharfies over splinters on the wooden banana packing cases then in use.

He said in the early 1990s several container loads of bananas had been sent from the NSW North Coast to New Zealand on an experimental basis, but no large quantities.



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