Local crop . . . Harjaap Rai inspects his bananas at Moonee Beach. BRENDAN RAY
Local crop . . . Harjaap Rai inspects his bananas at Moonee Beach. BRENDAN RAY

We're backing our bunch

THE Coffs Coast Advocate is today announcing its support for our local banana growers following news that Canberra may allow the importation of the fruit from the Philippines.

We understand potential diseases from Filipino bananas could cripple the industry on the Coffs Coast.

This was the blunt assessment of long-time Woolgoolga grower Mal Husna on the Biosecurity Australia report released on Thursday, which recommended imports be allowed "provided the Philippines meet strict risk management measures".

"Importing bananas is definitely a no-no," Mr Husna said.

"Now we are disease-free.

"We have no way of knowing how the diseases (such as Moko, Black Sigatoka and Freckle) would affect our crops."

His nephew, Harjaap Rai, said there were many jobs tied up in bananas locally.

"Most of the boys I went to school with are now working with their parents in bananas," the 22-year-old grower, who went to Woolgoolga High, said.

"The only other crop we have here is blueberries and it is being threatened with imports from Chile."

Another grower, David Pike, said if imports were ever allowed in, he’d be out of business.

"The central markets would be swallowed by imported bananas and I’d be left with selling directly to consumers or finding some other niche," Mr Pike said.

He said the issue of imports had been around for quite a few years.

"But until now the protocols for importers have been very onerous – the profit margin would have to be very large to make it worth their while."

Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, said it was essential for Australia’s clean, green image to be protected.

"Australia has a definite competitive advantage over other nations because our bananas are free of major disease," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"It does not make sense to put that reputation and quality at risk."

Mr Hartsuyker said he was particularly interested in how Biosecurity Australia would police any risk management measures in the Philippines.

"The recent EI outbreak in the horse industry highlighted the dire consequences when quarantine standards are not maintained.

"How will a similar situation be avoided with the importation of overseas bananas?"

VOICE your protest. Email the Federal Minister for Agriculture,Tony Burke and tell him why our banana industry must come first.

Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au Or write to him at PO Box 6022, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

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