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The fun and games of the Australian Banana Packing Championships

After a tough week for the Australian banana industry, spirits were high in North Queensland on Friday for the fun and games of the Australian Banana Packing Championships.

The two day competition is held annually at the Innisfail Show, and the main event sees six teams from Tully taking on six local teams. Organisers say that they are unaware of any similar event being held around the world.

"There's nothing to this degree of judging and organisation because it is obviously takes a few weeks before hand to go out and select the fruit from the farms,, it is quite detailed," Australian Banana Growers Council director Jade Buchanan said.

Photos Courtesy: ABGC

Innisfail had their heats on Thursday, with Tully following on Friday. Finals were held at the completion of the heats with the top three scoring teams from each town going through to a "pack-off". Scott and Avi Solien from Tully were the main winners picking up the first prize of $2,000.

"It is in four sections, so it is not just a speed race, but it is actually quite skilled," Ms Buchanan said. "They are looked at through everything from teamwork to how they care for the fruit, how they pack the fruit and what they throw away. Basically is has to be a 15 kilogram international pack, which is what most of the supermarkets have gone towards. Previously it was 13 kilos. Four judges on the night will score them on a points system."

While the main teams have experience of around 2-3 years in the local packing industry, there is also a category for the backpackers, who are working in the region. Although, Ms Buchanan says it is not as serious, it is extremely popular with both participants and the audience.

"It is very loud, it is very chaotic," she said. "Teams nominate from the four backpacker hostels up here, and the crowd get very involved. It went international (last year), it went crazy, obviously with social media. Just the atmosphere is amazing, just full of life and colour. We had grandstands there and they got packed out. People even come an hour before just to get a seat."

Organisers say that this competition is a positive and popular event in the local community, with the towns highly representative of the national industry. That is why the event still went ahead, after a suspected detection of Panama disease (TR4) at a property in Tully on Wednesday - the first since its initial discovery in 2015.

"We had someone ask that after panama was announced, why are we going ahead with this event," Ms Buchanan said. "The main difference from two years ago was that we were so unprepared. We didn't have biosecurity in place, we didn't have protocols, and we did not have on-farm management. This year people were a lot more prepared, we've already got structures in place and were able to get the fruit off the farm safely."

For more information:
Australian Banana Growers Council
Phone: +61 7 3278 4786

Publication date: 7/14/2017
Author: Matthew Russell
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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