Bender ... Stephen Knoblock picking a bunch of goldfinger bananas at his family’s Boambee plantation. BRUCE THOMAS
Bender ... Stephen Knoblock picking a bunch of goldfinger bananas at his family’s Boambee plantation. BRUCE THOMAS

Banana ban hits hard

COFFS Coast goldfinger banana growers have lost their only substantial market for the fruit and are faced with digging out or poisoning hectares of plants.

Boambee grower Ted Knoblock said it would be the death knell of the local banana industry, as most growers would not replant the acreage to other varieties because of the cost involved and the poor returns.

Goldfinger bananas have been grown by NSW farmers for Coles supermarkets in Queensland, but Mr Knoblock said the supermarket chain had told wholesalers it would no longer be stocking goldfingers and will be restricting the varieties of bananas it sold to cavendish and lady fingers.

The supermarket said yesterday the ban might not be permanent.

Coles spokesman Jim Cooper said Coles customers expected their fresh produce to meet certain quality standards.

"Unfortunately, in recent months, the quality of goldfinger bananas has not been at a level acceptable to our customers, and we have stopped selling them for the moment," he said.

"However, should the quality improve in the future, we will consider introducing them again."

Ted Knoblock said there were about 20 goldfinger growers in NSW, about six of whom were on the Coffs Coast.

He said he was fortunate to have a flat plantation site, which he could replant with lychees and avocadoes, but the decision would cost him $20,000 a year in sales.

He said the growers’ agreement with the supermarket to supply the fruit had been verbal and it was not the first time fruit and vegetable growers had seen their farm economies devastated by a change of plans by supermarkets.

He said local Coffs Coast markets absorbed only about 10 cartons of goldfingers a week.

Goldfingers are a relatively new variety, which have never become widely popular in NSW or Victoria.

NSW DPI horticulturist at Murwillumbah, Arthur Akehurst, said he understood Coles had had difficulties sourcing sufficient goldfinger stock through winter.


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