[07 March/Stuff NZ]

New Zealand’s tropical fruit are becoming more popular to grow. New Zealand eat 18kg per capita or around $140 million worth of bananas a year. Hugh Rose, head of Tropical Fruit Growers of NZ has a 40ha property on Northland’s east coast, growing a variety of tropical fruits including bananas, pineapples, dragon fruit, pawpaw and sugar cane. Mr Rose states that bananas are easy to grow and benefit from New Zealand’s low disease and pest levels compared to the tropics. They can be grown year long, as long as temperatures exceed 14 degrees. There are growers across the country typically between Northland and Gisborne producing good crops and even some in Invercargill under tunnel shelter. There are 17 varieties of banana growing, and increased consumer interest, with the New Zealand sourced bananas selling at about $8/kg through Whangārei farmers’ market. Mr Rose reports that with the amount of growers now on board, Northland should be able to be self-sufficient with bananas in a couple of years. Bananas sit well alongside dairying as dairy effluent is high in nitrogen and phosphate which are nutrients that bananas thrive off. All portions of the plant is edible to stock.