Carnarvon, with its moderate, tropical climate and an abundance of ground water is the perfect location for growing tropical fruits. The plantations have been growing bananas commercially along the Gascoyne River since the 1940’s.
The banana industry in Carnarvon can be attributed to a man named Jack Buzolic. After writing an article about the potential for banana crops in the area, he planted the first banana suckers in 1928 and by 1930 he had his first saleable crop.
Grown on flat surfaces in extremely fertile soil the Carnarvon bananas are the main fruit grown for shipment to Perth and form the basis for Carnarvon’s thriving agricultural industry. The Carnarvon Banana Plantations produce nearly 80% of all bananas consumed in Western Australia. The plantations use a sprinkler system for irrigation from water extracted from the underground aquifers in the Gascoyne River. There are over 70 banana plantations in Carnarvon, covering 350 hectares and producing 4,194 tonnes of bananas annually.
It is hard work on the plantations, no modern equipment here. Many of the workers still cutting the bunches of bananas by hand, using rather sharp machetes . Each bunch weighs about 50kg.
Aftermath of Cyclone Larry
In March 2006, cyclone Larry ripped through north Queensland, destroying close to 90% of Australia’s banana plantations. As a result all attention turned to New South Wales and Carnarvon plantations for supplying Australia with bananas. Carnarvon growers ,who were averaging about $6 for a 13kg box of bananas, were soon supplying markets around Australia with bananas for up to $110 a box. The steep increase in the cost of bananas resulted in several Carnarvon plantations being raided by poachers under the cover of night. The thieves were then selling the bananas on the black market. The boom in Carnarvon bananas lasted for over seven months, while plantations in North Queensland were being re-established.
Australian Banana Industry
The Australian banana Industry produces an estimated 300,000 tonnes of bananas annually. Queensland is the major producer with an estimated 256,000 tonnes, followed by New South Wales (13,000 tonnes), Western Australia (5,500 tonnes) and Northern Territory (930 tonnes).The world’s largest banana producing country is India, producing an estimated 16.4 million tonnes, followed by Brazil (6.5 million tonnes), China (5.7 million tonnes), Ecuador (5.5 million tonnes) and the Philippines (5.2 million tonnes).The world’s largest banana exporter is Ecuador exporting approximately 4.3 million tonnes (2003), followed by Costa Rica, Philippines, Colombia and Guatemala.