Australia: Queensland government backs banana disease program

The government of the state of Queensland has backed the fight against the banana disease ‘Panama Tropical Race 4’ via funds of almost $12.1 million over a period of five years.

A recent independent review of the Panama TR4 Program confirmed the importance of tackling the disease in partnership between growers and government. The government will continue to fund the existing TR4 management Program until June 30, 2019 but from July 1 onwards, government funding for the program would only continue under a cost-sharing arrangement with industry.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner said the review stated the program should continue but must be based on shared responsibility between government and industry: "For almost four years, we have been very successful in containing the disease to just three adjoining farms. A major factor in that success has been the joint approach taken by government, industry, growers, and other key stakeholders. Biosecurity Queensland is establishing a working group with the Australian Banana Growers' Council (ABGC) to progress the development of a first-of-its-kind partnership agreement to fund, deliver, design and govern the Panama TR4 Program in Queensland."

Furner said the agreement will give industry an opportunity to shape its future. "By having a seat at the table, industry can share the decisions on how Panama TR4 is contained and controlled in Far North Queensland.”

In a statement, the ABGC said it was ready to maintain the fight against the crop-crippling disease.  Since the first detection of TR4 in the Tully Valley in March 2015, there have been just two other farms detected with the disease. The industry purchase - via a national levy and ABGC funds - of the first infected farm and subsequent shutdown of all operations on it also contributed significantly to the containment.

Minimising the spread of this disease
ABGC chair, Stephen Lowe, said the organisation believes the TR4 Program is well worth investing in into the future: "The efforts of industry, government, community and researchers in minimising the spread of this potentially devastating disease have been world class. No other country with Panama TR4 has had the same success in containing the disease as we have here in North Queensland. But the reality is that Panama TR4 is here to stay and it will eventually spread. Therefore planning for the future is critical.”

Lowe emphasised that while Panama TR4 was contained to a relatively small area in Far North Queensland for now, slowing the inevitable spread is beneficial for the banana industry as a whole.



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