Tom Paslow finds a ready market for local bananas at the Coffs Coast Growers Market.
Tom Paslow finds a ready market for local bananas at the Coffs Coast Growers Market. Bruce Thomas

Fruit growers celebrate bonanza

IF you are growing fruit and nuts on the Coffs Coast, your cup should be running over.

Blueberries are selling at close to $8 a punnet; bananas at $12-$14 a kilogram in supermarkets and the price of macadamias is predicted to be at an all-time high for the 2011 harvest.

Growers and processors selling bananas and macadamias at the Coffs Coast Growers’ Market on Thursday were enjoying brisk trade and buyers were getting bargains.

Boambee banana growers Marlene and Bob Grant quickly sold out of their weekly load of bananas at $2.50/kg.

The Grants grow all the bananas they sell on their Englands Rd plantation, ripen their own fruit and sell exclusively through the Thursday growers market.

“They were walking out the door,” said Marlene Grant

“We had a lot and we sold a lot.”

Asked why their prices were so cheap when other local outlets were selling at $6-$7 a kilogram, Marlene said while bananas were plentiful, they were happy to sell all their available fruit.

“When they get scarcer we might have to put the prices up,” Mrs Grant said.

She said post Cyclone Yasi, banana prices were the best they had seen since Cyclone Larry hit the Queensland growers in 2007.

Leigh Holmes, from G&L Nuts, was selling all kinds of macadamia products at Thursday’s market, from cold-pressed macadamia oil, macadamia nut butter and sweet dukka to dry-roasted salted nuts and honey-roasted macadamias.

With this year’s macadamia harvest now under way in northern NSW and due to start soon for growers at Corindi, Bellingen and the Nambucca Valley, Mrs Holmes said prices for macadamia products and new-season nuts were likely to rise.

Analysts are predicting an average price to growers of $3.30/kg for standard quality nut in shell (10% moisture, 33% kernel recovery and 2% commercial quality) well up from last year’s price of $2.65.

Nambucca Macnuts co-operative general manager Vince Collins said their estimate was $3-$3.25 for average nuts in shell, but they were expecting a smaller crop than last year because rain had interrupted flowering.

He said this was also expected to affect the quality of early-harvested nuts but late-harvested nuts “should be pretty good”.

The Macnuts factory at Macksville processes nuts from 60 member growers from Corindi to Taree and west to Thora.

This will be the third year in a row Australian production has been below average and it coincides with smaller crops from competing nations and a depletion of worldwide stocks

Some processors are quoting $16-$17/kg for the majority of nuts produced, which is close to a historically high global price for macadamias.

Meanwhile the price of blueberries at Coffs Coast supermarkets has climbed to close to $8 per punnet.

In spite of steadily increasing acreages of blueberries on the Coffs Coast, there were none to be had at the Coffs Coast Growers’ Market this week.

The general manager of Corindi-based Australian blueberry growing and marketing operation Berry Exchange, Peter McPherson, said it was the off-season for blueberries.

“They are very, very scarce,” he said.

He said prices would not begin reducing for months, but there would be good volumes of fruit from July-August to October, with Coffs Coast growers producing fruit from July right through to January.

Mr McPherson was speaking from Hawaii on his way back from a major blueberry conference in the USA, where he was elected one of only four directors of a newly-formed global body, the International Blueberry Organisation.

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