The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has welcomed a State Government funding pledge that will allow north Queensland banana growers to continue the fight against Panama tropical race 4 (TR4).
ABGC Chair Stephen Lowe said the commitment of $2.4 million towards the on-going Panama TR4 Program for the remainder of 2016/17 was good news for the industry, which had sought additional funding for the program, following the second confirmed detection of the disease in Tully earlier this year.
“The continuation of the Panama TR4 program, led by Biosecurity Queensland, and the current TR4 regulations are critical to the industry’s on-going fight to contain the spread of this severe disease,” Mr Lowe said.
“With two farms in the Tully Valley confirmed as having TR4 since March 2015, at this stage any relaxation in our combined biosecurity efforts would put the nation’s entire banana industry at serious risk.”
Mr Lowe also thanked the government for recognising the significant problem that the banana industry currently faced with feral pig numbers, particularly when it came to the containment of TR4.
He said the industry welcomed the Agriculture Minister Mark Furner’s commitment today for more than $900,000 over three years to manage feral pigs so as to help contain the spread of TR4.
“In July this year, ABGC requested State Government support for a comprehensive feral pig program in Panama areas, following the second confirmed detection of TR4.”
“We are grateful that these serious concerns have been heard and the government has responded.”
Feral pigs are recognised as a serious vector of the soil-borne disease, as they habitually frequent banana farms to feed.
In the past five months, growers in the Tully Valley with the assistance of the ABGC, have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a dedicated feral pig control program, including widespread aerial shooting.
“Growers should be commended for their efforts and we thank them for the time and dollars they have spent trying to bring the increasing pig infestations under control,” Mr Lowe said.
It is hoped that the additional funds will allow for a local feral pig co-ordinator to organise clusters of farmers in the Tully Valley to collectively bait, trap and aerial shoot feral pigs in Panama areas.
“With this new funding it is hoped the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and other industries will be able to deliver a comprehensive and sustained control program, in our unrelenting effort to protect industry against TR4.”
Mr Lowe also acknowledged a $170,000 funding injection, announced by Minister Furner, into applied research delivered through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).
A large component of the banana industry’s efforts to secure a viable and sustainable future lies in research and development projects that focus on discovering disease resistant varieties and pest and disease management.
“Research carried out by DAF to date has been crucial in helping the banana industry contain Panama TR4,” Mr Lowe said.
“This additional funding will assist even further in these efforts, including helping to fund research into rapid variety screening for TR4 resistance and early detection methods.”
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A photograph of Minister Mark Furner, ABGC chair Stephen Lowe and banana growers is available on request.