Can economics help banana farming?

Banana growers in the Wet Tropics can increase their profitability and sustainability by adopting the banana industry’s suite of best management practices (BMP).

That was the message from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ (DAF) economists to growers at a workshop in Innisfail last month.

The DAF economists have just completed a three year project to evaluate the profitability implications for banana growers adopting BMPs, as well as the corresponding improvement to water quality.

Forty six growers in the Tully and Innisfail districts took part in the research project, through one-on-one surveys and interviews.

The results are good news for both banana farmers and the Great Barrier Reef.

South Johnstone banana grower Gavin Devaney said the economic study highlighted to growers what worked and would be good for their business.

“The right agronomic advice at the right time really assists our business and helps to inform our fertiliser program with recommended rates. It’s a bit like paying attention to the  weather forecast before planting – it’s up to you to do so, but if you don’t then you might have to go and replant your crop. In the same way, growers who don’t make use of the best agronomic advice available are missing out on the best results,” Mr Devaney said.

“Looking at this study has helped me to understand the value of different elements of banana best management practice, and although some things may seem expensive at first, they make sense when you weigh up the potential benefits of cost savings and improved production.”

DAF agricultural economics manager, Mark Poggio said the study investigated a range of management practice changes, including nutrient management, irrigation, tillage and fallow management.

“The project included grower case studies, socioeconomic surveys and scenarios representing typical banana growing farms in the Tully and Innisfail districts and investigated variations in farm size, soil type and slope,” said Mr Poggio.

“The representative modelling found that a farming system change to best management practices generally provided overall economic and water quality benefits.

“Additional economic analysis also indicated that the growers, in the three case studies, experienced economic benefits after making various practice changes, through cost savings on farm.

“Prior to this project being completed there was limited info for growers to use to make informed decisions about BMP changes.

Mr Poggio said that the project would not have been possible without the generous support from growers, extension officers, technical experts, the Australian Banana Growers Council (AGBC) and other organisations.

ABGC Extension Officer Robert Mayers said that the economics study was an excellent tool to help growers make informed decisions to move to Best Practices.

“The study shows that there is an overall economic benefit even though it may not be seen straight away,” he said.

The project outputs included case studies, representative economic analyses and water quality information, a technical report, grower surveys and an adoption innovation profile  report, which are available at

This project was funded by Department of Environment and Science through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.