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Banana shortage to continue

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THE promised return of cheap and plentiful bananas in time for Christmas is in jeopardy, because of a severe shortage of fruit pickers.

The Australian Banana Growers' Council says after Cyclone Larry wiped out most of the nation's banana crop in March, many of the industry's long-term workers moved away to find jobs elsewhere.

Now with a much-awaited new crop coming to maturity in north Queensland, Council president Patrick Leahy is worried there won't be enough hands to pick all the fruit.

"The crisis point hasn't come yet," Mr Leahy said. "That's probably going to come in a few weeks time as we get closer to Christmas."

The council estimates north Queensland's banana industry is facing a shortfall of up to 1500 workers - close to half its workforce before Cyclone Larry. It is a problem already facing grower Ron Poppi, who began picking bananas on his 65ha Babinda property a fortnight ago.

He normally has up to 25 workers, but now has only three employees.

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