Sunday, March 26, 2006



A story in yesterday's Melbourne Age has revealed that supplies of Australia's most popular fruit will run out within days.

Coles and Woolworths' said they won't have a banana left in stock by the end of the week, if not sooner.

This means most Australians will have to live without bananas for nine months, at least. WA has a solid supply, but only enough for West Australians, and the Co-Op that controls the supply has already made it clear they won't be sending any bananas to the Eastern States.

The destruction of North Queensland's banana farms has revealed some astonishing facts about this fruit, least of all that it is not actually a fruit but a herb.

Up until last Monday, Australians consumed 15 million bananas a week, supplied by more than 1850 banana growers.

And there's power in those bananas. Apparently the growers and suppliers weild "a huge influence in a string of marginal Coalition-held seats along the Queensland and NSW coasts, a constituency the Howard Government is keen to protect", or so claims the Melbourne Age.

That's right, Australia has a powerful Banana Lobby. Stop snickering, it's true.

There is now a battle brewing between that Banana Lobby and Australia's most powerful supermarket chains to have the strict quarantine laws eased that keep out foreign banana imports. This battle began within hours of Cyclone Larry touching down last Monday morning.

From the Age : "On Wednesday morning, the Philippines — which produces 12 per cent of world banana exports — also approached the Government, offering help to make sure Australians did not go without their bananas. Both requests were rejected.

"Banana imports are banned because of the risk of exotic pests. Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran said there was 'absolutely no prospect' of the ban being lifted. He said banana lovers should show sympathy for growers ruined by cyclone Larry."

McGauran said most Australians will have to keep the now suffering banana growers in mind when they complain about the lack of bananas through to the end of the year.

As part of their seven year long fight to get their bananas onto Australian supermarket shelves, the Philippines agriculture attache Maria Albarece has been talking up his country's product as "the most delicious bananas in the world".

Now that's just cruel.

From the Age : "Centre for International Economics economist Brent Borrell, an expert on the world banana market, said it was widely believed Australia was using the quarantine argument as a non-tariff trade barrier.

"'It is true that there is a lot of sniggering in Geneva (WTO headquarters) whenever Australia speaks up in favour of free trade yet maintains these effective trade barriers to products such as apples and bananas,' he said.

"He said Australia had among the most expensive bananas in the world, and countries such as the Philippines and Ecuador could put the fruit on Australian tables for half price."

So there you have it. Australians were already paying double, DOUBLE, the world going price for bananas and we were being laughed at as free trade hypocrites.

Nine months is a long, long, long time to go without bananas.

But you can always jump a plane to New Zealand, or take a weekend break in the Philippines, where you can enjoy 'the most delicious bananas in the world', for a lot less than what they once cost, and will cost, her in Australia.

Drooling...bananas, mmmm, yellow goodness, ohhrrr...

Stop it, must think of the suffering farmers

But apples and mangoes just don't cut it as a replacement.

The Banana Battle of 2006 has just begun.

Go here for an earlier story on the Australian Banana Crisis.

And go here for a slightly less serious take on the Banana Crisis.