December 2014 \ Arts & Entertainment \ India Empire Book Excerpts

Country: Australia

Banana plantation at that time did not require large amount of money for machinery or equipment to set up. Manual labor was all that was mostly needed throughout the year. Thus, after saving some money, a few Punjabis ventured into leasing or purchasing the banana plantations. In a short period, they established themselves as successful banana growers. The success at banana farming attracted Punjabi immigrants from Queensland and other parts of Australia to Woolgoolga. “From 1966-1980, enterprising Punjabi Sikhs bought 60% of the banana farms in the Coffs Harbor/Woolgoolga area. Today over 95% of banana industry in Woolgoolga and 10% of Coffs Harbor, an adjoining town is owned and operated by Australians of Sikh ancestry”.

Banana farming in Woolgoolga-Coffs Harbor areas is virtually synonymous with the Sikh community, and their economic success is largely attributed to their background in farming and constant hard work to improve production. But banana farming for many Sikh farmers was not a consistent money making business. They began to move to farming blueberries, an alternate crop, which is less susceptible to market fluctuations. Also, growing blueberries is comparatively less strenuous work for which the farmers have been able to get help from their women folk. Many Punjabi farmers also branched out into other crops such as oranges in Queensland.

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