Yasi hits Far North banana crops

BANANA growers across Far North Queensland, in particular Innisfail and Tully, have been the worst affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasi, according to the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC).

ABGC Chairman Cameron MacKay said the industry had taken a significant battering with 95 per cent of major production affected in the Tully and Innisfail region, about 20 per cent on the Atherton Tablelands and a further 80 per cent in the Kennedy area south of Cardwell.

“With industry worth $400 million, a total of 75 per cent has been affected,” Mr MacKay said.

“The majority of Australian bananas are grown in tropical North Queensland, so this is a fairly significant disaster for our industry,” he said.

Mr MacKay went on to say that there are small production areas in South-East Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia which will mean there are some bananas available for consumers, but the loss of virtually all the North Queensland farms is almost beyond comprehension.

“While there will be an interruption in supply for the next four months, and consumers are going to see some weather-damaged fruit, this should not detract from the fact that there is still some good quality product available,” Mr MacKay said.

“Bananas will continue to be Australia’s number one fruit, so we ask that our consumers understand that the interruption of supply is caused by something completely outside growers' control,” he said.

“It is very important for our families, our workers, our economy and all Australian banana consumers that we get the mess cleared away as soon as possible, so that our crops can be replanted and buildings restored to be able to get fruit back on the shelves sooner rather than later,” he said.

“It is vital that we receive the support necessary to get back to full production as soon as possible.”

Many growers are facing massive repair costs as crop insurance is not available for banana farms, therefore the industry is facing a huge financial and personal struggle to return production to its previous levels of more than 450,000 cartons per week.

“I briefly spoke with Queensland Minister for Primary Industries Tim Mulherin today in regards to putting together a strategy that best suits our situation in more detail shortly, and we look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in the coming days to discuss the situation,” Mr MacKay said.

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