A great big (banana) tax

Banana prices are a ridicu­lous $14–15 per kg. for only one rea­son; the out­ra­geous ban on imports that reg­u­lar­ly deliv­ers mas­sive sub­si­dies direct­ly from con­sumers’ pock­ets to this tiny group of grow­ers.

Aus­tralian Banana Grow­ers Coun­cil chief exec­u­tive Jonathan Eccles told The Aus­tralian that grow­ers were get­ting up to $10/kg whole­sale. That, he said, was a mas­sive jump from last year, when a banana glut drove the whole­sale price as low as $1/kg. Mr Eccles said prices should return to nor­mal by the end of the year.” Extract from The Aus­tralian

Thanks to the import ban, Aus­tralian banana grow­ers are insu­lat­ed from for­eign com­pe­ti­tion, sup­pos­ed­ly to pro­tect our plan­ta­tions from the risk of import­ed banana-plant dis­eases that devel­op­ing coun­try farm­ers all around the world have man­aged more than ade­quate­ly for decades. The import-ban has allowed them (and their sup­pli­ers and ‘mid­dle-men’) to soak Aus­tralian con­sumers for hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars; twice since 2006!

For what pub­lic ben­e­fit do we sub­sidise this tiny, trade-bust­ing* indus­try?

None, as far as I can see. Obvi­ous­ly, the import ban does not pro­tect the Aus­tralian indus­try from the biggest risk they face: cyclones.

Despite the solemn assur­ances of Min­is­ters from suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments that our quar­an­tine import bar­ri­ers are “sci­ence based”, no gov­ern­ment can insu­late itself from respon­si­bil­i­ty for this pol­i­cy by a pro­ce­dur­al device. Our banana import-ban is a cost­ly indul­gence in trade-pro­tec­tion (as our com­pre­hen­sive loss­es in WTO dis­putes on Cana­di­an salmon and New Zealand apples con­firm) and con­sumer-goug­ing. It seems to have no lofti­er tar­get than secur­ing polit­i­cal favours in North­ern New South Wales (and South­ern Queens­land) coastal regions.

*You can imag­ine how big banana-exporters such as Philip­pines and Thai­land or small region­al sup­pli­ers such as Ton­ga feel about our exports when we ban theirs.

One Comment

  • john wratt wrote:

    Dodgy graft & cor­rup­tion in the indus­try & pol­i­tics amaz­ing that it has been going on for so long ? — who ben­e­fits? — do the unaf­fect­ed grow­ers share the prof­its across the indus­try? — why don’t they sort out dis­ease resis­tant crops? and as most indus­tries open up the trade to world trade com­pe­ti­tion — unbe­liev­able how politi­cians stick to the baloney about import­ing dis­eases — some­one needs to get to the bot­tom of the sto­ry!!

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