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AU: Banana grower says current market is providing only marginal returns

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-05-22  Views: 45
Core Tip: A North Queensland banana grower believes the domestic market needs to slow down slightly over the next few months, to help reduce supply and increase profits.
     A North Queensland banana grower believes the domestic market needs to slow down slightly over the next few months, to help reduce supply and increase profits.
    Franziska Inderbitzin from Swiss Farms says while production has been steady over the recent months, consumer demand for bananas has been slow.
    “I assume the market has been saturated and there has been limited growth to cater for the additional production out of most growing areas,” she said. “The returns have been marginal for some time. We hope for a cool winter which would slow production in most areas and increase returns to the farmers.”
    Ms Inderbitzin's family has been successfully growing bananas at Swiss Farms for over 20 years in the Lakeland area, north of Cairns. The company mainly grows the Cavendish variety under the brand name of Red Valley and Lakeland Plantations, while the company's other brands include Swiss Farms, Inderbitzin's and Swiss Fresh bananas.
    Swiss Farms produces similar number of cartons all year around, while sales have been steady, especially for 'out of spec' fruit.
    “The growing conditions have been very good due to a normal wet season,” Ms Inderbitzin. “The challenge during the wet season is always to keep up with all the manual field work to ensure quality of the fruit is maintained.”
    Swiss Farms supply most of the markets in the capital cities, with the exception of Hobart, targeting a broad range of supermarkets and independent retailers.
    Ms Inderbitzin has also welcomed the latest news regarding the export potential of Australian bananas, but cautioned about the competitiveness of the industry compared to other countries.
    The Banana Industry Export Market Development Strategy 2023 identifies some exciting opportunities for differentiated and niche products could potentially find a place in markets such as Japan, China, Singapore, New Zealand and Qatar. Australia in 2017 only exported 0.04 per cent of production, and she adds this is mainly because of the costs compared to other countries makes it noncompetitive.
    “It is good news, exporting bananas may increase the demand for bananas in the long term,” Ms Inderbitzin. “But I'm not sure if Australian bananas can be competitive in the world markets due to the high cost of production. Australian labour costs are amongst the highest in the world and Australia would be competing with countries who traditionally have very low labour costs.”
    While she has thrown her support behind strengthening biosecurity across the industry.
    “In the long term we hope to see an Australian standard for the banana industry especially in biosecurity as we have seen the outbreak of the dreaded Panama disease in North Queensland,” she said. “In my opinion it would be important if all farmers had to adhere to strict biosecurity protocol to ensure the future of the banana industry in Australia.”
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