A new management board to oversee the Panama TR4 Program in Queensland until 2023 has met for the first time, heralding the start of a unique government-industry partnership to help protect the future of Australia’s $600 million banana industry.
Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the Panama TR4 Program Management Board (the Board) would oversee the continued delivery and governance of the Panama TR4 Program, which was developed to help manage the soil-borne disease after it was first detected in the Tully Valley in 2015.
Mr Furner said the Queensland Government and Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) would jointly fund, govern and deliver the Program until 30 June 2023.
He said under the new collaborative arrangement, industry and government would have equal decision-making responsibilities on the board to ensure the program continued to be effective and run efficiently.
“In 2019, the Queensland Government committed a further $12.089 million from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2023 to control and contain Panama TR4 in Queensland’s banana production areas,” Mr Furner said.
“The ABGC will begin co-funding the program this year through grower levies, eventually contributing 50 per cent of funding for the program in 2022/23.
“As a partner in this unique arrangement, the Queensland Government is committed to the banana industry, which is an economic powerhouse in Far North Queensland.
“I am incredibly pleased that industry will be sitting at the table with Government to make key decisions on the future management of the disease, and the program.”
Board member and ABGC Director Andrew Serra said the ABGC had secured the support of banana growers to proceed with the jointly funded and delivered model, to ensure the best possible protection to the national banana industry.
“Panama TR4 remains one of the greatest, if not the greatest, challenge facing our industry,” Mr Serra said.
“The collaborative efforts of growers, government and researchers have been able to limit the spread of this disease since 2015, but the work needs to continue to protect the livelihood of our growers and the wider industry.
“I encourage all growers to take the opportunity to provide input to the Board through their ABGC representatives, when necessary.”
Board members are:
- Malcolm Letts, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) (Chair)
- Stephen Lowe, ABGC
- Andrew Serra, ABGC
- Jim Pekin, ABGC
- Mike Ashton, DAF
- Lynne Turner, DAF
The board’s first meeting was conducted using video link technology due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The board will meet quarterly and report all key decisions and deliverables to growers.