Innisfail growers on Panama TR4 management

Mandatory biosecurity, ongoing education and incentive programs were some of the suggestions given to the Panama TR4 Program’s Management Board by Innisfail growers at a focus group meeting. 

The Panama TR4 Program Management Board convened a focus group of Innisfail growers to inform the future direction of Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) management. The workshop was part of a broader series of engagements to gain insight into areas of most concern to growers. The group of fifteen growers were provided a scenario that Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) was about to announce a new disease detection on an Innisfail farm. It then posed the question, ‘what information or assistance would you need in response to this scenario?’ 

The feedback suggested that not all growers feel informed about the requirements of an infested property. The Board also noted a varying level of understanding about the management of Panama TR4 in general. Following this discussion, the Board is now considering a focus on service providers’ awareness of their general biosecurity obligations and a new series of communication and engagement initiatives. 

Program Board Chair and Biosecurity Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer, Malcolm Letts, was grateful for the honesty of everyone in the room and asked that all growers continue to feed information to the Board as an ongoing concern. “We welcome any grower, at any point, to contact us about challenges they’re having with biosecurity and put forward ideas which might help protect our communities from Panama TR4,” said Mr Letts. 

The Board’s series of in-person engagements commenced with an open invitation to a meeting at the Innisfail Brothers Leagues Club in October 2020. Earlier this year was a meeting with infested property owners to understand their perspective of living with Panama TR4. And an open invitation was delivered in a presentation at the Australian Banana Industry Congress for growers to provide input to the future management of the disease. CEO of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and Program Board member, Jim Pekin said that the transition of Panama TR4 management to industry by July 2023 is high on the Board’s agenda with an extensive grower consultation process being planned. 

”Growers will soon be consulted on a Draft TR4 Management Plan under industry leadership. “Throughout the consultations we hope to discuss that Plan with a cross section of the industry, within targeted geographical production regions, demographics, property size and biosecurity levels. This will help us to identify differing perspectives on the future plan for TR4 control and containment. “ 

The Panama TR4 Program Management Board first convened in April 2020 to jointly fund, deliver and govern the strategic direction of the Panama TR4 Program until 2023. Comprised of equal government and industry representation, the Board gives the industry an opportunity to make key decisions on the future management of the disease, and to lead an effective and efficient Program. 

Growers are invited to contact Geoff Wilson, ABGC Industry Transition Leader on 0418 644 068 regarding the future industry leadership of the the TR4 Program.