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  • Joginder Singh Shoker, Greenhouse Vegetable Grower from Coffs Harbour. (Supplied)
Punjabi banana farmers from Woolgoolga - Coffs Harbour area are fast transitioning into becoming successful greenhouse vegetable producers. The declining banana industry forced local farmers to look at other options including blueberry and ‘hot house’ vegetable production.
18 Sep 2017 - 12:11 PM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2017 - 6:02 PM

The Sikh settlement in Woolgoolga - Coffs Harbour area is one of the largest Indian rural communities in Australia.

The banana industry has been solely responsible for their firm establishment in this area.

Punjabi farmers used to be the dominant banana growers in the region, before they shifted their focus elsewhere.

Woolgoolga’s Jaswinder Singh Basra is at the forefront of the banana farming industry.

Jaswinder’s son Michael Singh Basra looks after the banana farms spread over 35 acres.

The Basra family has been involved in banana farming for the past three generations.

Jaswinder’s father Sohan Singh Basra started banana farming in 1979.

"The major reason for our success was their reliance on family labour and also the sheer commitment to hard work," said Mr Basra.

“Around three decades ago, Punjabi farmers controlled more than 70 per cent of the banana industry in Woolgoolga - Coffs Harbour area.

“But now, fewer than 10 Punjabi families remain in the banana farming business."

Michael Singh Basra told SBS Punjabi that for various reasons, banana farming is not financially viable anymore.

"Mother Nature has played a big role in this," said Mr Basra. 

“It’s a dying industry now…..and one of the reasons for its decline is overproduction in Queensland.”

Related Article
Punjabi pioneers revolutionize blueberry farming in Australia
More than 100 blueberry growing Sikh farmers from the mid-north coast of NSW have joined hands to form the Oz Group Co-operative. In the past few years, covering an area of 700 hectares of blueberry bushes, this Co-op has become one of the biggest blueberry suppliers in Australia.

Paul Shoker, Board Member - NSW Farmers Association mentioned that in the last thirty years, there has been a decline in the banana industry in and around Coffs Harbour.

“Since the abolition of White Australia Policy, Punjabi-Indian farmers were able to acquire leases and began owning banana farms.

“In the 1970s when the industry was at its peak, we had more than 33,000 acres of banana. This is now reduced to 1500 acres.

“The growers are now opting for greenhouse or “hot-house” vegetable production."

“In our community, we have approximately 40 hydroponic greenhouse growers.

“With their hard work and innovation, this area is set to become a major vegetable producing region.

“Coffs Harbour’s favourable climate is one of the big reasons behind this ‘hot’ success.

Joginder Singh Shoker is a greenhouse vegetable grower from Coffs Harbour. He moved from Sydney to Coffs Harbour in 1991. 

He was a traditional banana farmer who is fast transitioning into becoming a successful greenhouse vegetable producer. 

“We are now at the forefront of greenhouse production of vegetables like cucumber, tomato and capsicum," said Mr Shoker.

Amandeep Singh Sidhu, is a community leader and a progressive blueberry farmer from Coffs Harbor.

According to Mr Sidhu, the declining banana industry discouraged local farmers, who were forced to look at other options including blueberry and greenhouse vegetable production.

“With their commitment and hard work, they are back in agribusiness, although, of a different kind,” said Mr Sidhu.

Amandeep Singh Sidhu told SBS Punjabi that much of the credit for this transition goes to the young generation.

“This is a massive opportunity to adapt, expand and create new jobs."

“This expansion and diversification will help long term viability of agribusiness in this region.

“Punjabi farmers not only play a vital role in the economic success of this region but also help to meet the growing demand for fresh vegetables, while using fewer resources.”

For more news and updates, follow SBS Punjabi on Facebook and Twitter.

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