Hot weather spoils banana town crops

CLAIRE TYRRELLCountryman

Carnarvon banana growers face extensive losses after a heatwave over the last fortnight burned their crops.

Sweeter Banana Co-operative business manager Doriana Mangili said recent price increases were offset by the impact of hot weather.

“The good news is the price has gone up a bit, as a result of production losses in Queensland, but the small rise in price will be negated by lower production, ” she said.

“We have seen a lot of burnt bunches.”

Grower John Kearney was one of the hardest hit, with losses of up to 30 per cent.

The Kearneys experienced seven consecutive days of more than 40C maximum temperatures and high evaporation rates over the past two weeks.

“When it is that hot the plants just can’t take up water and the fruit burns, ” he said.

“It is the worst I have seen since 1983-84.

“Some people didn’t have as much damage because I didn’t have much water.”

Carnarvon’s Banana Compensation Trust Fund committee met last week to discuss the possibility of dipping into the fund to compensate for growers’ latest losses.

Committee chairman Bruce Munro said it was highly likely the group would make a claim.

“We are assessing the situation and if it is as bad as what it appears to be we will go to the Agricultural Produce Commission and request a claim, ” he said.

Carnarvon banana growers pay 20 cents for every carton of bananas they produce to the levy which can be accessed when natural events cause crop losses.

Banana prices lifted a $5 average to about $30 a carton late last month after floods in Queensland decreased production.

Carnarvon supplies about 20 per cent of WA’s bananas.

My Kearney said production losses from recent hot weather would not affect the market.

“Volume will be affected in coming months — if we drop in volume Queensland picks it up, ” he said.

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