Queensland’s emergency response efforts to the deadly Panama banana disease have been bolstered after receiving $230,000 in federal government funding.
The minister for agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has also announced that the Australian Government has teamed with local response group to a joint taskforce.
The Panama disease Tropical Race 4 Response and Resilience Taskforce will meet for the first time next week to begin to tackle the economic and social impacts the disease has had on the state’s banana farmers.
The money, which was delivered through the Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative, will fund diagnostic equipment, signage and two international experts travelling to Australia in June.
The Stronger Biosecurity Quarantine Initiative was an election commitment funded in 2014-15, committing $20 million over 4 years to build on our existing preparedness and response capabilities as part of a national approach to biosecurity.
According to a spokesperson from the federal department of agriculture, $110,000 was signed off on March 13, after three farms were quarantined on March 4, and another $100,000 was signed off on March 31.
A second infected property was quarantined on 4 April 2015.
They said the remaining $20,000 for experts travel had been committed but not yet expended.
This week the Australian Banana Growers Council also proposed a Voluntary TR4 Levy, which would see local banana growers donate one cent for every kilogram of bananas marketed to help reimburse farmers who have had their plantations quarantined.
“Banana growers at the meetings were generally supportive of both measures,” said ABGC Chairman Doug Phillips.
“Banana growers are determined to contain TR4 and to ramp up their on-farm biosecurity measures.”
The voluntary levy will start from April 27.
So far TR4 has been detected on parts of two banana farms in North Queensland with the region’s other 280 banana farms continuing banana production as usual.
The disease is considered to be one of the most destructive banana diseases in the world. It completely wiped out the Northern Territory’s industry in the 1990s.
The fungus doesn’t affect banana fruit, only banana plants, stopping them from producing marketable bunches. The disease does not affect humans.
All bananas harvested and supplied to market are from healthy plants unaffected by TR4.
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