National recognition for banana biosecurity best practice


March 7, 2018

National recognition for banana biosecurity best practice

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has congratulated two Australian banana farming companies, who have received national honours for outstanding biosecurity practices.

Mackay Farming Group (Queensland) and Rum Jungle Organics (Northern Territory) were presented with a 2018 Australian Biosecurity Award in the Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year category, at a ceremony in Canberra last night (March 6).

The inaugural Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year award category was established within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Australian Biosecurity Awards.

In collaboration with Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, through the Farm Biosecurity Program, this new category recognises primary producers that have made an outstanding contribution to the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity. Recipients have demonstrated exceptional on-farm biosecurity practices, including pro-actively advocating biosecurity best practice within industry.

The Mackay Farming Group is Australia’s largest banana producer and is widely recognised as being an industry leader in establishing world-class biosecurity practices across its extensive banana farming network.

Following the initial Queensland outbreak of Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) in 2015, the company set about establishing a sophisticated biosecurity plan, based on a colour-coded zonal system, including different coloured gumboots for different zones and fitting each farm with the latest footbaths, wash down facilities and chemical dips.

Their systems have since been incorporated into the Australian banana industry’s biosecurity best practice models, championed by Biosecurity Queensland and ABGC.

The company’s commitment to implementing the most stringent biosecurity protocols meant that in July 2017, when part of their Bolinda Estate was placed under quarantine – following positive testing for TR4 – their packing shed stopped for just two hours after the initial quarantine notice was issued.

ABGC Chair Stephen Lowe commended the family-run company for their achievements – particularly cousins Gavin and Stephen Mackay, who manage the Bolinda Estate.

“The fact that the farm was able to continue to trade in the presence of an insidious disease like TR4, just hours after being issued a quarantine notice, is an enormous credit to Mackays and testament to the rigorous biosecurity protocols established on farm well before this detection,” Mr Lowe said.

“For an industry that continues to do everything in its power to fight the further spread of this disease, this offers some hope that our collective efforts so far are delivering effective results, in the bid to protect a $600 million industry.”

Mr Lowe said it was important to note that the Mackay’s contribution to Australia’s biosecurity effort went well beyond their own farm gates, consistently offering to share their knowledge to the wider banana industry, particularly fellow growers.

“There is no question that Mackay’s input into banana industry biosecurity best practice  has set benchmarks for our industry. They have been open and generous in sharing their knowledge, particularly with those growers in the high-risk TR4 zone in the Tully Valley, and for this the ABGC and industry is extremely grateful.”

Mr Lowe also commended the efforts of NT organic banana growers Alan Petersen and Julie-Ann Murphy, owners of Rum Jungle Organics, who was also recognised with a 2018 Australian Biosecurity Award in the Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year category.

The company implemented comprehensive biosecurity measures following the outbreak of Banana Freckle in the Top End in 2013.

Following detection of the disease on their 26ha property the same year, all banana plants on their farm had to be destroyed and disposed of as part of the Banana Freckle Eradication Program, resulting in virtually no farm income for four years.

Despite this enormous setback, the couple remained resilient, focussing on implementing best practice biosecurity measures, in an attempt to restore production on their property.

Chief Plant Health Officer Sarah Corcoran from the Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) Plant Biosecurity Division, nominated Rum Jungle for the Biosecurity Award. She said owners Alan and Julie-Ann had implemented some of the most comprehensive biosecurity measures in the Top End.

These included having only one entry and exit point to the property, restricting all vehicle travel on the property to a dedicated farm vehicle, improving plant health and maintaining visitor records in case of future investigation.

“They treat their biosecurity plan as a living document, reviewing and updating it as necessary to minimise the risk of endemic and exotic pests and diseases getting onto their property,” Ms Corcoran said.

“The biosecurity measures they’ve put in place not only protect their own livelihood from pest and disease, but also the broader industry, which enhances the reputation of the Territory and Australia as producers of fresh, high quality produce.

The farm recently planted a new, clean crop of bananas following the third and final phase of the Freckle Eradication Program and fruit from these trees is again being sold at local markets.


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