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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Australia battles banana rustlers
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Destroyed banana plantation in Queensland 21/3/06
Queensland's banana plantations were devastated
Three months after a cyclone devastated Australia's banana crop, growers are facing a new threat - fruit rustlers.

Cyclone Larry destroyed 80% of Australia's banana crop when it tore through tropical Queensland in March. Plantations in New South Wales were unaffected by the storm, but are now being targeted by gangs of fruit thieves.

Banana prices have skyrocketed and the police have been called in to investigate several thefts.

Bunches that were selling for A$10 to A$40 ($7.50-$30) have been selling for between A$150 and A$180, depending on their size.

The police have said that the crimes appear to be well organised and were on the increase.

Soaring prices have become a big talking point.

An off-licence in Sydney recently put a light-hearted note in its window stating that no bananas were kept on the premises overnight.

The author of a letter in a broadsheet newspaper said he had been battling with this dilemma: should he in these times of high petrol prices fill up his car or treat himself to a banana?

They have become a luxury item.

See the damage caused by Cyclone Larry

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