Grower Profile – Bruce Munro

Bananas

I never imagined for one minute I’d be a banana grower. I met Darrel in Perth – she’d grown up in Carnarvon. We got married and came back to live here after a few years.

I’d done an apprenticeship as a mechanic. I had a garage and we were selling and fixing up motorcars. We bought a plantation as a weekend thing, and I was working in town. In 12 months we moved out there full-time.

I didn’t think it’d be too hard to grow bananas. As a mechanic I did a bit of work out along the river for different growers and I had a bit of an idea what we were getting into.

That was in 1980. The banana market was pretty good then, you could make a reasonable living out of bananas. After that, north Queensland cranked up and were producing ridiculous amounts of bananas, and it got harder.

We formed a cooperative to pack and market the bananas, otherwise the banana industry would have died out completely. Sweeter Banana has been the saviour of the industry, really. We were one of the founding members.

When I first started, everything was flood irrigation. You had big bays where you grew your bananas and filled them up with water. We progressed to micro sprinklers under trees. Just about all the properties now have got automatic systems so you’re not wasting water.

Bananas are labour intensive – it’s very hard to mechanise any steps in the process. At one stage we bought a machine for the shed to bag the bananas, but we couldn’t get it working. They sent the experts over and they couldn’t get it working either. It’s an industry that’s very difficult to mechanise.

We had three sons and we thought it was much better bringing them up on the river rather than in town. It was really great raising our kids on the property, because of the freedom they had. You didn’t have any of the issues they had in town – we only started locking the house up a couple of years ago.

Our youngest son worked with us on the farm for over 20 years, he’s driving a truck now. It’s a great – well I wouldn’t say lifestyle, because it’s hard work – but we’ve really enjoyed growing bananas for almost 40 years.