INCREASING banana exports could the key to shoring up the Australian banana industry into the future.
It was one of the reoccurring ideas discussed at last week's Australian Banana Industry Congress at the Gold Coast where some 350 members of the banana supply chain, including 100 growers, came together.
Hosted by the Australian Banana Growers Council (ABGC), the biennial event attracted people from Queensland, NSW, Western Australia, Adelaide and the Northern Territory.
In his opening speech, Congress chair and Lakeland grower, Paul Inderbitzin, encouraged the industry to look to exports as the next step in furthering the industry.
He said the path towards increased banana exports should be done carefully, through a five to 10 year plan.
But pushing into new areas could bring some discomfort.
"Change is important. Change can equal risk and we're all in the business of risk mitigation," Mr Inderbitzin said.
"We'd like to drive that change if we can, rather than just be a passenger.
"This need for change in the industry, it needs to involve, I think, the creation and development of a banana export program.
- Australian Banana Industry Congress 2019 - Day 2 | PHOTOS
- Bananas need more branding, says Nuffield Scholar
- Bananas celebrated on national day to support industry
"I'm definitely no exporter but I am definitely a believer that we should continue to develop this program and support it."
When it comes to dipping upping exports, Australia would be a small fish diving into a big pond.
Statistics gathered by Fresh Intelligence Consulting principal and senior analyst, Wayne Prowse, showed bananas were the most traded fruit globally with 153 million tonnes produced in 2017 from 135 countries.
The highest producing nation was Ecuador which pumped out 6.8 million tonnes in 2018.
In comparison, Australia produced 388,265t to June 2018, the vast majority of which was consumed locally.
In fact, the 2017/18 Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook did not list a value for fresh Australian banana exports, saying the little international trade that did occur was dominated by dried banana products with just 135 tonnes exported to June 2018.
"It will give us more options in the future," Mr Inderbitzin said.
"We can learn from other industries in the country."
Some of those learnings were shared from the citrus industry with Citrus Australia market access manager, David Daniels, addressing the conference.
Mr Daniels relayed the rise and fall and rise again of Australian citrus exports but reinforced the key to Aussie produce overseas: quality, quality, quality.
"Quality is everything, obviously," Mr Daniels said.
"There's an old grower saying: Anyone can sell scotch fillet. But you've got to sell everything on that tree."
He encouraged the banana industry to foster inter-business cooperation and maintain a sense of humour in dealing with hurdles.
Another major issue addressed at the Congress was dealing with the disease, Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4).
Attendees heard about the latest research angles towards overcoming Panama TR4 with most speakers agreeing that breeding a resistant variety would be the key.
Growers also heard from those who live with the disease on their farms, including Darwin Fruit Farm manager, Mark Smith, and MacKay Marketing brothers, Gavin and Stephen MacKay.