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Ladyfinger bananas survived hailstorms, revive Coffs region

The hailstorms affecting Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland have not deterred the area’s banana growers. “We had a downpour on Sunday in particular, and we’ve experienced a few of the recent storms, but it was quick and we’ve come through it pretty safe,” says Woolgoolga banana farmer Jaswinder Singh. “We might lose a couple of trees here and there, but nothing serious or significant.”

The banana plantation in the area will not lose volume following the recent weather, but harvest has been difficult the last two years due to the weather conditions in the months leading up to harvest, Mr Singh says. “We already had a dry April and May that marked our fruit, and a dry lead up to Christmas last year, so we are suffering from that rather than the recent weather.”

The Singh family grows mainly ladyfinger bananas, which can produce a higher return than traditional Cavendish when the fruit is unblemished and premium grade. “Within the next month or so we’ll start harvesting on our new plantation we’ve purchased, and hopefully we’ll see some improvement but it takes until the third harvest or so for the plants to reach full production.”

The amount of work involved in harvesting and packing a niche variety such as lady finger bananas deters a lot of others, Mr Singh says, but the family business has a plan to produce the right quality and the right volume to remain profitable. Competition in the area has lessened and other farmers are turning to berries to sustain their businesses. “There is only a handful of banana growers left in this region, most have moved up north to Queensland if they haven’t started growing berries in hothouses.” 

Moving forward, as the newer plantations reach full production, Mr Singh remains optimistic that market prices will remain strong for ladyfinger bananas in particular. “We really have top quality fruit, and produce top quality but because it’s been market recently prices haven’t been what they were. We’re hoping that will change.”

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