10 March 2015
Queensland’s $600 million banana industry is this week preparing to confront one its greatest tests in living memory as it awaits the results that will determine whether the tropical race four (TR4) disease has taken hold in the state.
The fungal disease, which wiped out the Northern Territory banana industry in the late 1990s, was first suspected at a farm near Tully late last week.
Biosecurity Queensland quickly commenced a tracing, surveillance and sampling program in the Tully region on Monday to try and locate the source and determine whether the panama disease had spread.
A department spokesman said lengthy and crucial planning procedures as well as the logistics of moving soil between Tully and Brisbane for testing meant the program commenced late last week.
Results from these tests are expected in the coming days.
Opposition spokesperson for agriculture Deb Frecklington toured the North Queensland banana growing regions this week with Federal Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan and State Member for Hinchinbrook Andrew Cripps to listen to growers and speak with industry leaders.
Ms Frecklington said State, Federal and local government were working closely with industry to combat the potential outbreak.
She said while there was definite concern among growers, most understood that every available measure was being taken to quarantine the area in question and minimise the risk of further contamination.
“Senator O’Sullivan and I have participated in a number of meetings during the past few days,” Ms Frecklington said.
“It is clear that every effort is being made to assist industry and keep major stakeholders informed as developments arise.”
Ms Frecklington said while these were confronting days for the banana industry, she had been impressed by the stoicism among growers who gathered at a public meeting in Mareeba on Monday.
Senator O’Sullivan said the North Queensland tour would be used to collect important ‘on the ground’ information from growers to be taken back to share with other public policy makers in Canberra and Brisbane.
He said with the banana industry supporting almost 10,000 full time jobs, directly and indirectly, the government had an ‘absolute’ responsibility to keep the sector strong across North Queensland.
“Matters of biosecurity are above party politics – we will kick down any door that is needed to ensure our growers are looked after,” he said.
“This industry has a long history of confronting adversity – it fought an inspirational war against foreign banana imports – and it won.
“I can’t tell you what the outcome will be from this potential outbreak.
“These days would be listed among the industry’s greatest challenges in recent memory – but we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them. That’s why we are in North Queensland.
“I have been relaying the information to (Federal Agriculture Minister) Barnaby Joyce’s office and will continue to do so.”