New Zealand imports about 72,000 tonnes of bananas annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Each New Zealander eats around 18kg of bananas a year – an estimated cost of about $88 per household, or more than $142 million a year.
New Zealand imports more bananas per capita than any other developed country, with most of the fruit grown with the use of toxic pesticides which lower the risk of unwanted organisms entering New Zealand but are perceived as a danger to human health.
Parua Bay farmer Hugh Rose believes bananas – and other tropical crops – grown organically in Northland could be developed into an alternative source of supply and produce lucrative rewards for regional landowners.
He and around 20 others experimenting with growing tropical fruit commercially have formed a group they are calling Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand (TFGNZ) and are trying to contact potential members or gardeners with bananas or other tropical crops from which the group can source stock to expand their activities.
“Basically, we need to get tropical fruit growers together for an exchange of ideas and stock,” Mr Rose said.
He and his wife Pauline moved from the Kaipara district to their 40ha property in Rukuwai Rd at Parua Bay three years ago. Pauline is chief operations officer for Northland broadband and phone provider Uber Group and uses their rural lifestyle to expand her interest in growing water lilies and develop water gardens.
Hugh has helped a builder erect them a home, grown kumara, set up a Red Devon stud and, most recently, started planting banana suckers with the intention of establishing a commercial plantation.
With plants he put in the ground last November growing well with suckers appearing around their bases, he’s already working out their potential for profit.
If he could get a hectare covered in bananas 3m apart his 3333 plants could within two years each produce at least 10kg of fruit which, selling at $2 a kilogram, would return $66,660 a hectare.