Australian banana growers will face stiffer competition following Biosecurity Australia's decision to allow imported bananas from the Philippines into the Australian market.
Australian banana growers will face stiffer competition following Biosecurity Australia's decision to allow imported bananas from the Philippines into the Australian market. Coffs Coast Advocate/Bruce Thomas

Banana imports to hurt growers

DEPRESSING was the word that Ron Gray chose to describe the news that Biosecurity Australia has approved the importation of Philippines bananas into Australia.

The president of the Coffs Harbour and District Banana Growers Association said he had left the Philippines in 2000 thinking if the Australian government let bananas in with the amounts of pests and diseases they had, they would let in anything from anywhere.

“There's only one (banana) disease that I know of they we haven't got,” he said.

Mr Gray said the decision would hurt Queensland banana farmers more than the smaller scale NSW growers, because they supplied the bulk of supermarkets.

After two weeks of higher prices, NSW growers are facing rock bottom returns of as low as $6 a 13kg carton as Queensland bananas pour on to the markets as northern floodwaters recede and trucks from North Queensland reach capital city markets.

Mr Gray questioned how long supermarkets' resolve yesterday to support the local industry would last.

The chairman of the Australian Banana Growers' Council, West Korora grower Nicky Singh, said there was still a lot of ground to be gone over to see how growers could get scientific protection from the 21 identified pests and diseases in the Philippines and how the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service could audit the whole system properly.

He said local impact would depend on which retailer took the imports.

There would still be a future for growers who delivered a top quality product, he said, but it meant more competition in the market.

“It is up to the consumers to decide if they want locally-grown fruit which moves quickly from the farm to the shelf,” Mr Singh said..

A Senate inquiry into the decision will be held on March 11 and 12.



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