Risk mitigation for banana growers

Banana farmers expand Innisfail operation


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Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority Far North Regional Area Manager Sam Spina and banana farmer Ben Abbott.

Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority Far North Regional Area Manager Sam Spina and banana farmer Ben Abbott.

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Mitigating biosecurity risks and reducing the impact of cyclones motivated the Abbott brothers to purchase a second banana farm in Far North Queensland.

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MITIGATING biosecurity risks and reducing the impact of cyclones motivated the Abbott brothers to purchase a second farm in the Innisfail region and in turn expand their family's organic banana operation.

Matt and Ben Abbott grew up on their parent's banana farm at Mena Creek and farming is in the blood.

Discussions around expansion and succession planning led the brothers to purchase a second farm at Wangan, about 25km from their family farm, where they continue to grow their business.

Parents Rob and Jenny have been farming bananas in the region for almost 30 years and the family now has plantations over about 80 hectares.

Matt said he was proud to be able to carry on and expand the family's business in the niche organic banana market.

"I really enjoy what I do on the farm and that's probably come from growing up on the farm with Dad and watching what he does," he said.

"When you grow up with it it's ingrained into you. It's pretty special to be able to do it with family."

Matt and Ben successfully applied for a Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) First Start Loan in 2017 to purchase their second farm.

Matt said they planted and staged their cropping cycle across the two properties to lessen the potential damage from cyclones in the Far North.

"We farm about 180 acres or organic bananas on two separate properties, the home farm with Dad and the property we purchased with the QRIDA First Start Loan," Ben said.

"The time was right, we applied for the First Start Loan to purchase an existing banana farm to expand."

There is increasing consumer demand for their product, with organic certification providing their fruit with a consumer advantage.

Matt said the decision to access a First Start Loan was about expanding the business but also following a succession plan to allow the brothers to run their own banana operation.

 Banana farmer Matt Abbott.

Banana farmer Matt Abbott.

"As much as the decision was about expanding and growing, it was about a bit of succession planning and setting the business up so we could do it together," Matt said.

QRIDA's 'very competitive' interest rates encouraged the Abbott brothers to consider a First Start Loan when they were purchasing their farm.

"It allowed our business to grow, purchasing a new farm was part of our succession planning so the First Start Loan allowed us to do that," Matt said.

"When we were looking at buying the farm, the initial thought was we had to borrow from the bank. When we started talking the Regional Area Manager everything seemed a lot simpler and easier so we continued down that path to where we are now."

QRIDA Far North Regional Area Manager Sam Spina said support was available for producers in a range of industries in Far North Queensland.

"The majority of Australian-grown bananas are produced in Far North Queensland so this area has a rich legacy of high quality, fresh tropical fruit," he said.

"QRIDA is able to support all kinds of primary production enterprises and we encourage producers not to self-assess but get into contact with us to see how QRIDA might be able to help your farming goals progress."

First Start Loans offer finance up to $2 million to assist in the early years of establishing a primary production enterprise while Sustainability Loans offer finance up to $1.3 million to assist in achieving a more productive and sustainable primary production enterprise.

For more information on the loans visit www.qrida.qld.gov.au or call 1800 623 946.

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