Banana Rustlers At Large

TJ_Honeysuckle

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#1
As seen in the Australian today:

Rustlers bent on bananas By Robin Pash

BANANA growers fear their suddenly expensive crops are being targeted by organised rustlers as the industry struggles to recover from a devastating cyclone. Soaring prices have made the fruit attractive to thieves after Tropical Cyclone Larry wiped out most of the nation's banana crop when it swept through north Queensland in late March.
Growers in northern NSW, which has become one of the prime production areas for the eastern states as Queensland recovers, are now reporting crop thefts including one that netted 18 bunches worth $3000.
Coffs Harbour police are investigating – the thieves sneaked into the plantation through a state forest bordering the property.
The Australian Banana Growers' Council said three thefts had been confirmed in the Coffs Harbour area in recent weeks. Council chief executive Tony Heidrich said there had to be some level of organisation in the thefts. "I hope it's not too well organised, but it's certainly not a one-man operation. It typically requires at least two people to harvest a bunch and transport them," he said.
"We also think it's somebody that has some association with the industry because they know the level of maturity the bunches need to be at to be saleable, and they're targeting those bunches. "I'm certain it's a potential problem no matter where bananas are grown at present."
The council's vice president, Coffs Harbour grower Nicky Singh, said theft had only ever been a minor problem in the past, "but not as substantial as it is now". "It could spread to other areas, too," he said. "It's going to be hard to track them down because there's so many places they could get rid of them."
Mr Heidrich said the industry also believed there could have been unreported thefts. "Growers could be targeted and perhaps not be aware of it until enough bunches go missing that it becomes obvious," he said.
The nationwide shortage of bananas since cyclone Larry has forced retail prices as high as $15 a kilogram, compared with the pre-cyclone average of $2.50 to $3.
Banana bunches are currently worth between $130 and $200 each, depending on size.
The far north Queensland crop is not due to return until November, with fruit currently coming from northern NSW, south east Queensland, the Northern Territory and Carnarvon in Western Australia.
The industry is planning a staggered return to production for north Queensland fruit to avoid an oversupply developing.
Prices should return to pre-cyclone levels by December, Mr Heidrich said.
I haven't seen or eaten a banana for weeks (currently subsisting on Vietnamese dried "banana paper") but I like the theory of organised gangs with inside knowledge...going outlaw, against the Banana Code...quite beyond the pale and indeed possiby beyond the the Big Banana
 

Anome

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#2
I'm still getting bananas, but I'm paying a hell of a lot for them.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a booming black market in bananas. It's kind of worrying that our supply was so fragile.
 

sunsplash1

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#3
*{ 'Splash holds open trenchcoat lined with contraband}*

Psstt, Anyone care for a six-pack of wax-dipped solidarity banannas? Lady Fingers? ...



:p
 

TJ_Honeysuckle

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#4
How much do you want to know about this?

It's all here:
HARRY Atwal and his son Ravi were nearing the end of a hard day's yakka when they noticed something amiss on their banana farm in the lush green hills of Coffs Harbour in northern NSW.
After a busy morning spent wrapping protective blue plastic bags around newly formed banana bunches to create a warmer climate for the fruit, they noticed that a fully-grown bunch had been cut from its 3m-tall plant.
A quick check through the rest of the property revealed 18 bunches, due to be harvested in about a week, had disappeared overnight. At present prices, the heist was worth $3000.
The thieves are believed to have gained access on Saturday May 27 via a state forest track at the back of the property in a four-wheel drive. Harry Atwal found fresh wheel tracks in the long grass at the edge of the forestry reserve.
The farm is one of at least three properties in the Coffs Harbour district that have been raided in recent weeks by banana rustlers, a new breed of thief taking advantage of record prices as a result of the shortage caused by Cyclone Larry, which wiped out 90 per cent of the nation's banana crop when it swept through north Queensland on March 20.
In the last week of May, 25 bunches worth about $2500 were stolen from a banana farm at Woolgoolga, 20km north of Coffs Harbour. Another Coffs Harbour grower has reported bunches worth $600 stolen.
Police and banana industry leaders believe the stolen fruit may have been sold to markets or shops. Nicky Singh, a Coffs Harbour farmer who is also vice-president of the Australian Banana Growers Council, believes more than one thief was responsible for the raid on the Atwals' plantation. "Eighteen bunches is a lot of bananas, they were obviously not for their own consumption," he says.
Singh and other industry leaders are certain the thieves are very familiar with banana-growing techniques and knew exactly what they were looking for. They knew bunches on each property are staggered so they ripen at different times of the year. Singh says the rustlers zeroed in on fruit ready for harvest.
Atwal's wife Sanita is convinced the raid on their property was led by a fellow grower. "It's definitely another banana farmer that's done it," she says. "I think it would be a grower who's run short of fruit because the cold weather's coming in. They probably put our bunches in with their own pallets for sale because they know ours are worth $100 a carton."
Like many other farms in the district, the Atwals' plantation is vulnerable because they don't live on the property. "This is the first time anything like this has happened to us and we've been working that farm for 20 years," Sanita says. "We live in town. Harry goes to work on the farm about 6.30 in the morning and usually finishes about 2.30 in the afternoon. So we reckon whoever stole our fruit did their homework and watched us come and go. We reckon it must have happened some time between 2.30 Friday afternoon and 6.30am Saturday. They must have brought a ladder because that's the only way you can cut a bunch that's (3m) high."

RICH PICKINGS
BEFORE Cyclone Larry hit on March 20, Australia was consuming 20 million 13kg cartons of bananas a year, which is approximately 13kg per head of population:

95.11 per cent came from Queensland. About 90 per cent of Queensland bananas were grown in the Innisfail-Tully area devastated in March by Cyclone Larry.

3.13 per cent came from northern NSW.

0.1 per cent came from the Northern Territory.

1.66 per cent came from Carnarvon in WA.

Since Cyclone Larry supply has plummeted from 400,000 cartons a week to just 40,000-50,000 a week.

Before Cyclone Larry growers were getting an average $20-$25 per 13kg carton. They are now getting $100.
In the present market:

Grower gets $6.92 per kg.

Retailer pays $7.69 per kg.

With banana prices rising 400 per cent, greed is driving the raids. Bunches that would normally be worth between $20 and $40 wholesale can now fetch $130 to $200. In the supermarkets, fruit shops and markets around the nation, bananas that would normally sell at $4.40 a kilogram can now cost up to $13, or $3 for a single banana. The soaring prices have provoked outrage, frustration and despair among consumers forcing a switch to cheaper fruit substitutes including apples and pears.

While growers in the Innisfail-Tully area in north Queensland are struggling to re-build farms wrecked by Cyclone Larry, farmers in northern NSW, southeast Queensland, Darwin and Carnarvon in Western Australia are reaping the short-term benefits and experiencing their best prices in 20 years.

The shortage caused by Larry means Coffs Harbour growers are selling their bananas at anywhere between $70 and $120 per 13kg carton, compared to $14 before the cyclone struck.

Singh, 49, whose plantation stands about 100m north of the district's famous Big Banana attraction, says many growers are using the profits to reinvest in their farms.

"I don't know anybody who's even bought a new car," Singh says. "Nobody's going crazy with their money. Most people are putting their money into their business, doing things like investing in farm machinery. Some are replacing equipment that's more than 20 years old. Some are putting money away for their kids' education. We know these high prices won't last too long.

"These prices will hopefully help many growers to stay in the industry for at least the next five years."

The high prices are also feeding urban myths that juice shops and fruit stores are displaying signs saying "No bananas are kept on these premises at night". A Melbourne newspaper reported just such a sign at a juice shop in Bright, Victoria, while a Sydney newspaper said a similar sign had been seen at an inner-city cafe. A cafe in Dee Why, Sydney, is said to have advertised a tax of 25 cents on every product made with bananas, while an office supplies company is Perth is offering "free bananas" with every $150 worth of products sold.

Australian Banana Growers Council chief executive Tony Heidrich says supply has been slashed from about 400,000 cartons of bananas going into the Australian marketplace every week down to somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that's a significant shortfall," Heidrich says. "In a free market system, if something's in demand and it's in short supply, then prices rise. It's unavoidable."

The high prices are the result of a bidding war among retailers. "That's what drives the price up," Heidrich says. "You've got Coles and Woolworths competing against each other, and independent stores wanting to get their share. You've got to remember that (in normal times) bananas are the No. 1 item sold in Australian supermarkets.

"It's virtually an auction where people who want bananas for their stores have to bid up the prices in order to secure their supplies."

Wholesalers and greengrocers say they have been harmed by the price rises. A spokesman for Sydney Markets Reporting Service said most retailers were selling at cost price. Harris Farm Markets, a 13-store fruit and vegetable retailer, claimed last month that the devastation caused by Cyclone Larry had wiped more than $252,000 from its gross profits.

Peter Stergakis, owner of the Carina Fresh fruit shop in Brisbane's eastern suburbs, says people are still buying bananas despite the high prices. "But they're just buying two, three or four at a time," he says. "People have got to have their bananas. Bananas in Australia are like tea in China."

Imports could of course ease the price explosion but the federal Government has ruled out relaxing Australia's strict ban on banana imports. The argument is that bananas are highly vulnerable to foreign imported pests and diseases and that apart from Australia bananas are grown in developing countries.

The Philippines has been negotiating with the national quarantine agency Biosecurity Australia for seven years in a bid to export bananas here. Since Cylcone Larry, there has been speculation the long, drawn-out process would be speeded up or the ban relaxed to ease the shortage. Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran says Biosecurity's scientific assessment of the potential quarantine risks of importing Philippine bananas will continue.

The draft report, which is expected soon, could open the door for the first time to limited imports to non-growing areas, that is direct to market.

There is more good news on the horizon for consumers. North Queensland growers, who are struggling to revive their devastated farms, are expected to have bananas back on the market in October-November.

From today's Australian
 

Anome

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#6
I got two for $5.25 yesterday.

The organic ones were in the same bin as the normal ones, at the same price. Which only goes to show.

What it only goes to show, I'm not sure. But it does only go to show.
 

stu neville

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#7
sunsplash1 said:
*{ 'Splash holds open trenchcoat lined with contraband}*

Psstt, Anyone care for a six-pack of wax-dipped solidarity banannas? Lady Fingers? ...
That's a thought - have any Antipodean flashers caught in flagrante claimed that they're actually engaged in banana rustling, then?
 

TJ_Honeysuckle

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#9
Not until you raised the legal innovation that will henceforth be known as the Stuneville Defence, aka the Banana Rustler's Pardon.
 

kirmildew

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#12
Good grief... Glad our banana prices seem to be the same here, as Official Pregnant Pig- woman I have been eating them like they are going out of fashion (along with Coco Pops, plum tomatoes and cheese spread. Not all together.) I would still buy them if they were at a premium though! :oops:
 
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