Changing of the guard

The peak national body for the Australian banana industry – the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) – has appointed a new Executive Committee and two new Directors to its board.

Former ABGC Deputy Chair Stephen Lowe has taken the reins as Chair after the position was made vacant by South Johnstone grower Doug Phillips who stood down from the role after five years at the helm.

North Queensland Director Ben Franklin will take over as Deputy Chair, while New South Wales grower Stephen Spear was appointed Treasurer.

The new executive was elected during the ABGC’s quarterly board meeting at Mission Beach today.

Mr Lowe thanked Mr Phillips for his dedication and tireless work during his time as Chair, acknowledging the outstanding contribution he had made not only to the board, but to the industry at large.

“On behalf of the board, I can say Doug leaves the ABGC with respect and gratitude for his dedication and tireless work during his time as Chair,” Mr Lowe said.

“He has made a significant impact on the ABGC, the industry and the community as a whole,” he said.

“The past 21 months – with the outbreak of Panama TR4 – were a particularly challenging time for all involved in the banana industry.

“During this time Doug not only became ‘the face’ of the ABGC but was instrumental in helping to ‘steer our ship’ through what was initially very unchartered waters, for growers in Queensland,” Mr Lowe said.

Mr Phillips conceded his time as Chair had included “challenging times”, however on a whole he had enjoyed the role.

“It was an honour,” Mr Phillips said. “A lot of trust is placed in you as Chair and I would like to thank people for their support over the years – the staff, current and past directors, as well as the growers as a whole.”

“Certainly the biggest challenge the ABGC board has faced has been Panama TR4. It has been extremely onerous at times and will continue to dominate the agenda in coming years, but I believe the industry is very well placed to deal with this incursion in the most effective manner.”

“We also faced challenges of various kinds throughout the last five years, from the review of Horticulture Australia through to the Banana Freckle incursion.

The ABGC’s newly elected Chair has been farming bananas in the Tully region for the past 22 years and has served on the ABGC board for the past two years, half of which was as Deputy Chair.

Mr Lowe said he looked forward to serving the industry in his new role, tackling future challenges and continuing to advance the interests of banana growers nation-wide.

“To follow in Doug’s footsteps is going to be a hard act to follow, but our Board is excited about the future and continuing our work in representing growers Australia-wide.”

Meantime, two new faces have joined the ranks of the ABGC board.

Innisfail banana grower Jade Buchanan from LMB Farms and Tully grower Leon Collins were appointed Directors during the Council’s annual general meeting at Tully last night.

They fill the vacancies left by Mr Phillips and former director Steve Lizzio.

New South Wales director and former ABGC Treasurer Peter Molenaar has also retired from the board.