Friday, March 24, 2006



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Happier days : Queensland MP Ron Boswell and the pick of the crop. Note : eating bananas will not make you morbidly obese, we think perhaps beer or pizza might be responsible.

80 percent of Australia's banana crops were wiped out during Cyclone Larry on Monday morning, and now the banana growers of Western Australia are facing acute pressure to send some of their produce east.

But it's not going to happen.

The Western Australian banana growers of Carnarvon have been fielding calls from the eastern states for five days now, but the Sweeter Banana Co-operative, which looks after eight of the ten bananas grown in the town, have announced there simply isn't enough of Australia's most popular fruit to go round.

40,000 cartons bananas are chomped down in WA each week, while pre-Cyclone Larry, the rest of Australia managed to get through some 400,000 cartons, that's about 12-15 million bananas a week.

Australians in the East are growing desperate for the golden fruit, as prices skyrocket to $7 and even $9 a kilo (up from about $1.50 in some shops before the cyclone hit), but that's just too bad.

As far as WA is concerned, the Easterners can go and get stuffed.

"....there is no bloody way any bananas are going over East," a spokesman for the Sweeter Banana Co-Op said. "We haven't got enough."

Meanwhile, Australia's largest supermarket chain has announced it may offer financial help to North Queensland's banana farmers to help them get back to producing Australia's most popular fruit as quickly as possible.

Woolworth's claims it is the banana industry's biggest customer and can shift, on average, more than 110,000 crates a week through its 700+ stores.

While the offer of financial aid appears completely charitable, this is after all big business, and right now there's no bigger fruit business than flogging bananas, if only Woolworth's could get their hands on them. Conditions of the financial aid will probably include exclusive deals for Woolworth's to get exclusive access to the very first crop of new Queensland bananas at the end of the year.

There has been no official announcement of a push by Woolworth's and Coles supermarkets to get the quarantine restrictions raised that stops Filipino bananas from reaching the Australian marketplace, but you can assume such talk is also now going on behind the scenes.

Massive banana shortages are expected to kick in hard in about two to three weeks time.

Bananas are also grown in Southern Queensland and on the New South Wales South Coast. But there was no major excess of bananas produced from these regions before the cyclone, so there still won't be enough to go round.

As strange as it sounds, with bananas possibly hitting ten dollars a kilo, Australia may soon see a banana related crime wave, with banana smuggling, banana truck hijacks and banana-related price gouging running rampant. Once anything gets this expensive, the criminals just can't resist.

As for the Filipino bananas getting into Australia to fill the massive void in the market?

Forget it.

No way.

It's not going to happen, or so say the MPs supported by the powerful Banana Lobby.

Only hours after the cyclone struck on Monday, and the full extent of the banana farm losses were becoming clear, Queensland MP Bob Katter was on television swearing up and down that no bloody Filipino banana would get into Australia, no matter how many little kiddies desperately scream, "Me want my 'nana mash now, mummy!"

While there are serious concerns about bugs and bacteria that can infect imported bananas getting loose in Australia, if imports were to be allowed there are big fears that once one very cheap Filipino banana get into Australia, then the flood of discounted product won't cease, even after North Queensland banana growers start turning out the caseloads of fruit again.

So that's it. Either you buy Australia's most expensive fruit and slowly enjoy that nutty, sweet goodness, or you find some other fruit to tuck into and dream of the day, sometime early next year, when you'll be able to buy bananas for less than a fiver and let them go brown in the fruit bowl, just like you used to do, back in the good old days of last week.