Renowned for having the Big Banana tourist attraction, the Coffs Coast region has long been associated with supplying top-quality bananas to the area and markets beyond.
However, over the last few decades the number of banana farms and farmers in the region has decreased, with pressures from increasing real estate prices to fluctuating markets and the uptake of blueberries as an alternate crop all impacting on the local industry.
The region now produces about 4% of the national crop, and the industry is still run by families managing relatively small farms, many of which have been passed on from generation to generation.
Local farmer Michael Gill is a third-generation banana farmer and manages the family’s 30 acre farm near Sandy Beach. He stated: “Our farm works well as a family run enterprise, it’s not too big for us to handle ourselves, and is capable of delivering a decent return for us over the years.”
While his farm is irrigated from two on site dams, the recent drought had a major impact on the farm’s productivity, reducing yields by up to 40%.
“One of the major challenges any farmer faces is inconsistency in the local climate, and we have gone from severe drought to major floods over the couple of last years, and that impacts on our ability to deliver quality fruit to the market,” Michael said.
A climate snapshot by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for the North Coast region reported that rainfall variability in the region has been severe, ranging from the Millennium drought to two of the wettest years on record for the region.
The expectation is that the region will become progressively warmer, and that rainfall in summer will decrease, but autumn rain will increase.
The future of the banana industry in our region will be influenced by just how variable our local climate becomes.
Source: News of the Area