Australia's pricey banana drama draws to a close

Australia's pricey banana drama draws to a close

$3 for a banana? Not for long –- Queensland is harvesting for the first time since Cyclone Yasi
bananas
A farmer in Cowley, northern Queensland, salvages bananas after the cyclone hit in February.

Australia’s not the cheapest place on the planet, but even local banana eaters have been perplexed at shelling out $15 per kilo for the tropical delights.

Fairfax Media’s Irvine Index provided the grim reality of global comparison: while three bananas might set a Tokyoite back $1.73, or a kilo would see you $1.98 worse off in New York, or $1.40 poorer in Singapore, Australians were paying top whack at $3 each.

Even the British could afford to be healthy eaters, with the golden fruit coming in at $1.01 a kilo.

This was due to Cyclone Yasi laying waste to three-quarters of the nation's banana crop in February.

Why didn’t Australia import bananas from the Philippines after the cyclone? The government protects the homegrown crop, and doesn't import bananas. It announced soon after the cyclone that import bans wouldn't be relaxed -- which was great news for banana growers, but bad news for potassium cravers.

Such was the pillage that Australian shoppers were copping at the check out, media reports have suggested many banana peelers resorted to theft. At self-scan checkouts, many customers were allegedly ringing their bananas in as carrots, desperate as they were for a juicy mouthful. Others planted their own trees, in spite of warnings of spreading what's called Bunchy Top virus.

But the end is near.

For the first time since the cyclone, the industry is making a slow recovery. Trees are yielding small fruit and packing sheds are starting to buzz. Seasonal workers who have bunches as heavy as their body weight drooping on their shoulders (after the machete does its thing) are back at work.

The Australian Banana Growers' Council said although the crop isn't great, a price drop should begin next month. It's suggested prices could be back to normal by October.