Going troppo for bananas in Gisborne

GOING BANANAS: Moves are afoot to develop a tropical fruits demonstration farm in the Gisborne district, with the initial aim to produce commercial quantities of bananas. The fruit has been grown successfully on a property at Makaraka for some time (pictured). Picture supplied
All of Gisborne's bananas are imported, many from South America. But if the project to diversify our fruit growing capacity here takes off, we could be eating locally grown bananas. File picture

A MOVE has begun to develop a tropical fruits demonstration farm in the Gisborne district with the initial focus on the potential for commercial banana production.

Northland-grown bananas have been at markets in Northland for some time and the rising interest in their production led to the formation of the Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand (TFGNZ) group.

That group has begun to explore and experiment with tropical fruit production in Northland with bananas as their first focus.

The group has offered their expertise to the Te Nahu whanau Tai Pukenga Trust based in Papatu Road at Manutuke.
The trust has grown small trial plots of hemp on the property under licence from the Ministry of Health and has about three hectares of land available for horticultural production.

“Looking for diversification, the trust has researched the establishment of a tropical fruits demonstration farm on that land,” said trust programme manager Trevor Mills.

“We plan to lodge funding applications to help establish the demonstration farm.”

Mr Mills said growing bananas on a commercial basis provided a better shorter-term commercial return than other horticulture crops like citrus and grapes.

“The Northland banana growers are getting $5 a kilo for their fruit. They have sweetness and taste that imported bananas cannot provide. The total value of imported bananas consumed in New Zealand is now over $150 million a year.

“As a result of their research, the TFGNZ group reports a possible return of $20,000-$30,000 a hectare after about a 30-month period from planting to harvesting.”

Tropical Fruit Growers New Zealand

The trust had recently formed an alliance with Tropical Fruit Growers New Zealand (TFGNZ).

“We are now actively exchanging information and expertise with the Northland growers, who have viewed photos of bananas growing here and they are in no doubt there are definite commercial possibilities.

“They are in agreement that our climatic conditions are similar to theirs and both climates are becoming more temperate and more conducive to growing tropical crops successfully,” Mr Mills said.

Bananas have been growing successfully at Makaraka for some time and produce good fruit.

“There is also significant banana-growing local expertise available from Rodger Bodle, who has grown and researched bananas here for more than 30 years.”

The trust has also researched the possibility of growing banana plantlets from tissue culture techniques, producing them from samples taken from the stem of the plant under laboratory conditions.

“The local Linnaeus laboratory associated with Riversun Nursery has confirmed they would be interested in developing processes to produce the plantlets through those tissue culture methods.”

Mr Mills said once the demonstration farm was established, it would be used to point to the potential for tropical fruits production here.

“The farm would be able to show to interested parties, iwi and hapu that there is much commercial promise growing bananas and other tropical crops in Tairawhiti.

“Such a move would increase employment opportunities and create more productive land use.”

The TFGNZ group has 20 members in Northland who encourage, source, and co-ordinate the distribution of both information and banana stems to interested landowners.

The group has put together a growing manual and has a possible banana packhouse.

A spokesman said they were seeking to adapt other existing horticulture industry models for fruit collection and distribution.

A MOVE has begun to develop a tropical fruits demonstration farm in the Gisborne district with the initial focus on the potential for commercial banana production.

Northland-grown bananas have been at markets in Northland for some time and the rising interest in their production led to the formation of the Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand (TFGNZ) group.

That group has begun to explore and experiment with tropical fruit production in Northland with bananas as their first focus.

The group has offered their expertise to the Te Nahu whanau Tai Pukenga Trust based in Papatu Road at Manutuke.
The trust has grown small trial plots of hemp on the property under licence from the Ministry of Health and has about three hectares of land available for horticultural production.

“Looking for diversification, the trust has researched the establishment of a tropical fruits demonstration farm on that land,” said trust programme manager Trevor Mills.

“We plan to lodge funding applications to help establish the demonstration farm.”

Mr Mills said growing bananas on a commercial basis provided a better shorter-term commercial return than other horticulture crops like citrus and grapes.

“The Northland banana growers are getting $5 a kilo for their fruit. They have sweetness and taste that imported bananas cannot provide. The total value of imported bananas consumed in New Zealand is now over $150 million a year.

“As a result of their research, the TFGNZ group reports a possible return of $20,000-$30,000 a hectare after about a 30-month period from planting to harvesting.”

Tropical Fruit Growers New Zealand

The trust had recently formed an alliance with Tropical Fruit Growers New Zealand (TFGNZ).

“We are now actively exchanging information and expertise with the Northland growers, who have viewed photos of bananas growing here and they are in no doubt there are definite commercial possibilities.

“They are in agreement that our climatic conditions are similar to theirs and both climates are becoming more temperate and more conducive to growing tropical crops successfully,” Mr Mills said.

Bananas have been growing successfully at Makaraka for some time and produce good fruit.

“There is also significant banana-growing local expertise available from Rodger Bodle, who has grown and researched bananas here for more than 30 years.”

The trust has also researched the possibility of growing banana plantlets from tissue culture techniques, producing them from samples taken from the stem of the plant under laboratory conditions.

“The local Linnaeus laboratory associated with Riversun Nursery has confirmed they would be interested in developing processes to produce the plantlets through those tissue culture methods.”

Mr Mills said once the demonstration farm was established, it would be used to point to the potential for tropical fruits production here.

“The farm would be able to show to interested parties, iwi and hapu that there is much commercial promise growing bananas and other tropical crops in Tairawhiti.

“Such a move would increase employment opportunities and create more productive land use.”

The TFGNZ group has 20 members in Northland who encourage, source, and co-ordinate the distribution of both information and banana stems to interested landowners.

The group has put together a growing manual and has a possible banana packhouse.

A spokesman said they were seeking to adapt other existing horticulture industry models for fruit collection and distribution.

To learn more about tropical fruit growing or available banana cultivars contact Hugh Rose on hugh@prose.co.nz. Or for general banana information go to: https://localfoodnorthland.org/production/growers/bananas/

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