The shortage, caused when Cyclone Larry wiped out 80 per cent of Australia’s banana crop, has sent prices soaring to record highs.
In the last few months, bananas have averaged A$12 to $15 a kilogram nationally, before the cyclone prices the favourite fruit rarely topped $3 a kilo.
But relief for consumers is in sight, the Australian Banana Growers Council says the shortage has bottomed out and prices are unlikely to go any higher. “I wouldn’t expect the quantities to go any lower,” council chief executive Tony Heidrich said.
“We should start to see some reasonable quantities flowing back onto the market in mid-September, and it should be back to normal by mid to late December. Prices should be back to pre-cyclone levels by then.” Mr Heidrich added.
Since the Cyclone Larry destroyed so many crops in north Queensland, the country’s biggest banana growing region, consumers have received most of their bananas from the sub-tropical zones of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Australia’s other two growing regions – the Northern Territory and Carnarvon in Western Australia – produce only a small amount of fruit.
The Banana Growers Council has encouraged north Queenslanders getting back into the industry to stagger their production so that the supply drought doesn’t turn into a glut and drive down prices.
“If everybody brings their crop in at the same time then we’ll also have another shortage in the middle of next year,” Mr Heidrich said.
Mr Heidrich said many growers had learned from the oversupply after crops were devastated by Cyclone Winifred in 1986, when a flood of fruit drove prices below the cost of production.
“More people went broke as a result of the glut 12 months after Cyclone Winifred than actually went broke during the cyclone,” he said.