Banana industry honours former leader

Former Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) chair Doug Phillips has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the banana industry during a ceremony in his honour in Sydney.

Mr Phillips was presented the one and only ABGC Award of Honour 2017 at the Australian Banana Industry Congress Banana Ball last Friday..

He received the prestigious award for his significant achievements to the industry during his six years on the ABGC board – five of those as Chair.

ABGC Chair Stephen Lowe presented Mr Phillips with the Award and thanked his predecessor for his dedication and service to the industry at large.

“Doug joined the ABGC board at a time when growers in Queensland’s north were still getting over the devastation of severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi,” Mr Lowe said.

“As many banana growers know first-hand, recovery from such events is never easy and the impacts of such events are also greater than purely financial,” he said.

“During his time as Chair, Doug visited all of Australia’s banana growing regions to present to and speak with growers and was always a staunch advocate of the industry to governments, to ensure all growers got a fair go.”

Mr Lowe said during Mr Phillips’ time on the ABGC board there had been many challenges that faced the industry including Banana Freckle, banana prices, concerns about water quality to the Great Barrier Reef, severe weather events, the review of Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and the need for a national horticultural advocacy body.

However, he said, the greatest challenge had been the detection of Panama TR4 on a property in Tully.

“When TR4 was found on the Tully farm in March 2015, Doug quickly fronted two rounds of meetings in three North Queensland locations to explain the situation and advise growers what they could do to protect themselves.  Not surprisingly, these were very well attended,” Mr Lowe said.

“Doug’s strong leadership in the months that followed the initial detection – against a wave of industry uncertainly and fear – was unwavering to say the least.”

“As well as addressing constant media requests, Doug ensured industry was always well informed, he consistently liaised with Biosecurity Queensland, senior government officials and scientists in the effort to contain TR4.”

“On top of this, he was heavily involved in successfully negotiating a contract to purchase the infected farm. This was a unique and historical deal for the ABGC and involved securing Commonwealth funding and grower support for an industry-funded levy through a national ballot.”

Mr Phillips’s contribution to the banana industry was also officially recognised at Queensland’s AgFuture Awards in Brisbane last November.

During the presentation, State Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne described Mr Phillips as having an “extraordinary and profound impact” on Queensland and the Australian banana industry through “exceptional leadership and vision”.

Another significant achievement of Mr Phillips was his role in establishing an emergency plant pest response (EPPR) levy in July 2013, to fund an eradication program for Banana Freckle in the Northern Territory.

“The EPPR levy followed meetings with banana growers and industry representatives Australia wide and took more than a year of consultations,” Mr Lowe said.

“The levy enabled Doug, on behalf of the industry, to push Governments for a national, cost-shared Banana Freckle eradication program. There is no doubt that there would not have been an eradication response for this exotic disease if Doug hadn’t pushed for it – through extensive negotiation and informed argument.”

Mr Lowe said Mr Phillips’ commitment to the ABGC, to make the banana industry more sustainable, profitable, innovative and resilient had no bounds.

“He definitely made this proud and great industry even better during his term on the board.  We salute his strong dedication and leadership, which have left an endurable mark across the whole of the Australian banana industry,” Mr Lowe said.

The ABGC Awards of Honour have traditionally acknowledged the banana industry’s finest and are presented every second year at the biennial Banana Industry Congress – the industry’s largest gathering of growers, researchers, innovators, leaders and service providers.