Scholar has hopes for organic growth

Mena Creek organic banana grower Matt Abbott will look at opportunities for niche banana exports as part of a scholarship awarded in September.

Matt is the banana industry’s 2016 Nuffield Scholar and will study marketing and category diversification, including the possibilities for branding and export markets for organic bananas.

He will also study sustainable farming practices and the management of banana plant disease such as Panama Tropical Race 4.

Matt’s family has been farming bananas for 30 years and their belief in the future of organic farming is underpinning plans to expand their banana production by about 20 per cent each year.

“Organic banana production makes up about one to two per cent of the total Australian banana market, but there is opportunity for a lot more growth,” Matt said.

“I would like to see how the big businesses overseas, both conventional and organic, operate from paddock to plate and bring this knowledge back to the Australian industry.

“I would like us to be exporting organic bananas by 2020, with strong demand driving our increased production.”

Matt will travel to Japan, South America and Europe as part of his research.

Along with his father Robert and brother Ben, Matt has been in organic banana production for the past 10 years. Prior to that, the family used conventional banana farming methods for 20 years.

Matt’s scholarship follows the awarding of a 2013 Nuffield Scholarship to Lakeland Downs banana grower Paul Inderbitzin who studied biosecurity and fruit quality. Paul travelled to Malaysia, Taiwan and China, the UK, Martinique in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Columbia.

The Nuffield Scholarship is awarded to a range of farmers with the banana scholarship supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia using the banana industry levy and matched funds from the Australian Government.