24 Aug 2018

Is it time Kiwi farmers went bananas?

From Country Life, 9:18 pm on 24 August 2018

New Zealanders love bananas, and more of us should be planting them, says Tropical Fruit Growers of NZ chair Hugh Rose.

With more growers got on board, New Zealand could be self-sufficient in bananas within ten years, he says.

Conservatively, a banana grower could make $30,000 a year, and in reality even double that, Rose says.

Tropical Fruit Growers of NZ has several hundred members, but currently New Zealand has only about 30 significant banana growers - with 1,000-plus stems planted on a 1 hectare-plus section - he says.

The organisation is helping interested landowners to source banana stems and handing out growing advice.

In New Zealand, we have several different Dwarf Cavendish varieties and about 26 Lady Fingers varieties available.

These bananas are smaller than supermarket bananas (which are Cavendish) and Hugh says they're sweeter, denser and thinner-skinned.

Dairy farmers could do well to plant a spare hectare or two in bananas because they produce 13 tonnes of dry matter per hectare - the same amount of animal food as a good rye grass and clover pasture, Hugh says.

Cows love all parts of the banana, and because the trees are heavy nutrient feeders they're good at catching effluent before it reaches streams.

Northland's banana growers already have a packing shed available, and one TFGNZ member - who has a truck washing business - is planting 1,000 banana stems this October and making space for banana processing in the factory he's building.

Anyone with a question about growing bananas can contact Hugh Rose via email - hugh@prose.co.nz