Larry's back as banana prices upset shoppers

CYCLONE Larry and snap-frozen Queensland is delivering another blow to consumers and a windfall for Coffs Coast banana growers as the aftershocks of last year's devastating storms and this year's chills ripple through capital city fruit markets.

Banana prices have shot up to $10 a kilogram in capital cities and yesterday even Coffs Coast supermarkets were showing the effects.

Woolworths in Coffs Harbour was selling bananas for $8.97 a kilogram and Coles in Coffs Harbour was selling bananas for $7.98 a kilogram.

Locally-owned IGA supermarkets, which source their fruit from local growers, had bananas at $6.99 in Coffs Harbour IGA and $5.99 in Woolgoolga IGA.

For really cheap bananas yesterday you had to visit local fruit stalls or The Big Banana.

John Cunningham, who grows and ripens his own bananas for sale at his Pacific Highway fruit stall south of Coffs Harbour, had 'hiked' his prices up to $3 a kilogram and said he was having trouble keeping up the supply.

"They're taking them back to Sydney," Mr Cunningham said.

"Sometimes we ripen more bananas for the holidays, but this year we didn't we sent some of ours to the Sydney markets.

"They're talking $50 for a 13kg carton at the markets this week up from $35 a carton a fortnight ago."

But Mr Cunningham said the good prices for growers and the pain for consumers would last no more than six weeks.

He said the dip in supply was caused by a gap between banana crops in North Queensland, with the first post-Larry crop having been harvested and sold and the next crop not yet quite ready for market.

But Mr Cunningham said North Queensland growers had been very busy six to eight weeks ago injecting banana bells with chemicals to prevent scab moth on bunches, so this meant those bunches would be coming on to the market in six weeks or less.

News reports from Far North Queensland late last week said freezing temperatures had caused million-dollar crop losses and produced a surge in banana prices after ground temperatures west of Cairns dropped to minus five degrees and farmers endured three straight nights of frosts, slowing banana production.

But Mr Cunningham said the post-Larry effect was a much more significant factor.

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