Levy pulls bananas into line

FIVE years after the idea was raised, a levy of 1.7 cents a kilo will be applied to all banana growers selling more than $100 worth of produce.

Jeff Larsson, who runs Rockleigh Plantations at Tullera, said although it was a long time coming, the levy would put banana growers in line with other producers in Australia.

“Most industries have national levies,” Mr Larsson said.

“Bananas are one of the last. With our state industry shrinking we've got to get under a national umbrella. Avocados and custard apples have.”

The introduction of the levy, which starts tomorrow, has caused angst among some growers.

But, according to Mr Larsson, the levy could leave them financially better off.

“It's virtually going to replace some of the other levies we already have,” Mr Larsson said.

“They were being taken out by administration. It's good for the industry, everyone contributing.”

Burringbar banana grower Lance Powell sells his produce at the local farmers markets and selected shops in the area. He does his own marketing, but is still in support of the levy which he will have to collect and send on.

“There's not many of us left,” he said.

“In the valley it used to be wall-to-wall bananas. The levy is a way of supporting the industry.”

Initially developed through a planning meeting five years ago, the levy was knocked back before being accepted in 2005.

“Growers indicated they wanted it,” said Australian Banana Growers Council president Nicky Singh. “The levy will be collected at first point of sale.

“This is generally the wholesaler or the supermarket. Growers who sell at the markets will be required to send the levy directly to the collection service.”

Money will be sent quarterly to the Levies Revenue Service, an agency under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

A percentage of the money raised will go to marketing and promotions while the rest goes to research and development, including plant protection.

“Some of the money will look after bunchy top and other diseases,” Mr Singh said.

It is expected that the levy will generate up to $5 million a year.

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