Banana rules bent

By BELINDA SCOTT

HUNDREDS of cartons of Coffs Coast bananas are in limbo in Melbourne after bananas from five Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga growers were found to have been sent interstate illegally.

As the fruit audit continues in Melbourne, Victorian fruit inspectors are debating whether to dump the more than 600 cartons of uncertified bananas discovered so far.

Other options being considered are to fumigate the fruit and charge the growers or fumigate the fruit and return the cartons of bananas to the growers.

The breach risks the integrity of the whole ICA 16 certificate scheme for the interstate trade in bananas, as well as many other fruit varieties.

Growers sending bananas to Victoria must be registered to use ICA 16 certificates, which involves an annual fee and an on-farm audit of their operation. The certificates guarantee the grower is sending only hard green fruit to Victoria ? fruit which will not carry fruit fly.

Chief executive officer of the NSW Banana Industry Committee, Bob Campbell, said inspectors had picked up one Coffs Harbour grower on Friday and had then gone looking for more, finding some growers using wrong or expired certificates and others with none at all.

"The Victorian Government can ban our fruit on this basis," Mr Campbell said.

"It could cost a lot of growers a lot of money." He said many growers who had had ICA 16 certificates had dropped them when banana prices were low, because of the cost of the on-farm audit, but with prices high, had started sending fruit to Victoria without certificates and had been getting away with it, but had now got caught.

The vice-president of the Australian Banana Growers Council, West Korora banana grower Nicky Singh, said growers from the Tweed were also involved in the uncertified consignment. "Growers know the rules and they are being disrespectful of them," Mr Singh said.

"A few growers chasing money are putting at risk the whole industry."



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