James Howe’s Queensland bananas travel up to 6,880km to get on supermarket shelves

As he watches freshly harvested bananas roll into the packing shed, far north Queensland banana grower James Howe cannot believe how far and in how many directions the fruit travels to reach consumers

The bananas are packed into 15-kilogram cartons, stacked up and chilled overnight before heading out on the trucks down the east coast and as far as Derby in Western Australia.

From the Howe farm in Walkamin in the Tablelands region near Cairns, some of these bananas might just set the record for the longest plantation-to-plate journey in the entire country.

“One of our main customers is Perth, so we’ve got one of the [longest] freight routes out of most people in Australia,” he said.

“Once they hit Perth, they then bounce up the west coast and it’s nearly as quick to get to where they end up from where they started.”

map across europe
The daily shipping route for Mr Howe’s bananas would be the equivalent of a long, meandering road trip across continental Europe.(Supplied: Google Maps)

From Walkamin to Perth and up to Derby it is a whopping 6,880 kilometres.

To put the distance into context, it would be the same as a meandering road trip through 16 European countries, starting in Spain and finishing in Russia.

Mr Howe says his nonna could never have envisaged the distances his produce travels, when she and his grandfather started growing melons, tobacco, and pumpkins in Queensland many years ago.

Thousands of kilometres later and still fresh

More than five million bananas are eaten every day in Australia, making them the country’s top-selling supermarket product.

According to the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC), bananas outsell not only other fruit and vegetable, but every other supermarket line.

Careful planning is required to ensure bananas were still in prime condition after such long journeys.

man in blue workshirt holds bunch of bananas
Bananas are picked green and ripened in a specialist facility to ensure consistency for supermarkets.(ABC Rural: Lucy Cooper)

“It basically boils down to having quality control in your own packing shed, and then quality control at the distribution centre, and hoping that the transport process in between is gentle and not rough,” Stephen Lowe, chair of ABGC said.

“There’s a lot of logistics behind bananas and if one part of the process goes wrong, it can cost a lot of money.”

But despite the long-distance travel, Mr Lowe said that compared to the rest of the world Australian fruit could reach Australian destinations faster.

“Internationally, a lot of fruit into Europe comes from Central America [and] South America, and it will be on a ship for 3 to 3.5 weeks before it gets to the distribution centres in Europe,” he said.

“When you’re sending bananas from North Queensland to Perth, it’s certainly quite a distance, definitely longer than the length of some countries.”

Bunches of green bunches lay on bench
Australians eat five million bananas a day.(ABC Rural: Lucy Cooper)

Related Posts