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Asian Citrus looking at bananas for diversification

China's biggest orange grower revealed it was going bananas in a drive to reduce its reliance on its core citrus fruit, for which output dipped 10% amid an outbreak of a bacterial disease.

The move follows a year in which orange output from one of its three plantations, Hepu, tumbled 23%, hurt by a replanting programme and an "extensive infection" of citrus canker, which causes premature fruit drop.

The company said it believed that the outbreak of the disease, which is encouraged by wet weather, would be limited to the Summer crop, although "there are still two months left in the typhoon season so the ultimate effectiveness of our treatment programme is yet to be determined."

The diversification into bananas, "will help shield us from the price fluctuations and biological threats that leave us vulnerable when specialising in a single crop". Banana palms, which Mr Tang termed "an excellent replacement crop" to orange trees, were being prioritised in part for their short maturation period. "Unlike orange trees which require four years before first harvest, new banana trees can be harvested after only 12 months giving us a faster payback period," Mr Tang said. The group after planting an initial 220,000 banana trees last month, was expecting a first harvest in September next year, for sale into the domestic market.

A further advantage of bananas, "is that less land is needed for their cultivation, which provides us with greater flexibility to lease more land should the trial prove successful as anticipated".


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