Australian govt responds quickly to TR4 confirmation in Queensland
The Australian Federal Government has announced it is providing expert staff and funding for specialized equipment to support the Queensland Government's response to banana fungus Panama Disease Tropical Race IV (TR4).
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce said the government had activated its Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative (SBQI) to provide assistance and support to Biosecurity Queensland, which was investigating the suspected outbreak since the detection was found on a property in the Tully Valley.
"The Australian Government is contributing specialised personnel to help with tracing and planning activities," Minister Joyce said.
"We are also providing support to Biosecurity Queensland to enable acquisition of technical assistance and specialist high-throughput diagnostic equipment, so that large numbers of plant samples can be rapidly processed.
"While the Queensland Government is responsible for leading the response to this incident, the Australian Government is working closely with Biosecurity Queensland to render any necessary support, and we are treating this potentially serious threat to Australia's (AUD)$490 million (US$374 million) a year banana industry as a priority."
He emphasized it was paramount to ensure good hygiene was maintained to prevent the disease's spread, with the affected property quarantined so that the movement of plant material, soil, machinery, equipment and vehicles on and off the farm is restricted.
Community forums are also being held in banana producing regions of North Queensland to inform growers and promote the importance of strong on-farm biosecurity.
A big hit for WA growers
The national banana industry has also received a blow on the other side of the country, where production has been "completely wiped out" in Western Australia's Carnarvon region following a direct hit from Tropical Cyclone Olwyn.
Australian Banana Growers' Council (ABGC) director Tom Day said damage assessments would be made so growers could seek assistance from the Carnarvon banana industry's compensation fund.
There are around 30 growers from the region who supply the Western Australian market, but there will still be supply coming in from Australia's dominant growing region of North Queensland. The ABGC said Carnarvon accounted for around 1% of Australia's banana production.
"The destruction caused by Cyclone Olwyn is a devastating event for Carnarvon, particularly given the hardships growers have been enduring in recent years with drought conditions," said ABGC chairman Doug Phillips.
"We know Carnarvon growers are a very resilient and determined group. Unfortunately, banana growers throughout Australia experience natural disasters all too often and we know how difficult these events are. All growers' thoughts are with our Carnarvon colleagues as they re-establish their homes and farms."
Doriana Mangili from Carnarvon coop Sweeter Bananas said the group's 22 growers were already planning to replant and ensure the industry could resume production.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm in the industry here, despite the difficulties from four years of drought, we just received a good river flow a week ago and the growers are being positive and saying 'we've just got to get planting'."