News State QLD News Panama disease outbreak prompts banana supply fears

Panama disease outbreak prompts banana supply fears

panama disease
Biosecurity Queensland has put strict quarantine restrictions in place. Photo: ABC
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A devastating banana disease has resurfaced in the state’s far north, prompting Biosecurity Queensland to put strict quarantine measures in place.

Chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson said samples taken from a property in the Tully Valley south of Cairns in the state’s far north have tested positive for Panama disease tropical race 4.

The banana farm has been locked down and is ‘under direction’ of biosecurity agencies.

More conclusive tests are not expected to be available for four to six weeks.

But authorities have acted swiftly to control and contain any further spread by issuing a biosecurity notice earlier today.

“In effect, the property will be under biosecurity directions in terms of how they’ll operate, that won’t be very different from the directions that were on the previous infested property,” Dr Thompson said.

“We’ve come a long way in two years since the first detection and the biosecurity practices are way in front of where we were before.”

Biosecurity Queensland has not identified the farming operation but the latest discovery has reignited the shockwaves that were felt when the first outbreak was detected in the same area in March 2015.

About 85 per cent of Australia’s bananas are produced within a 100-kilometre radius of the Tully Valley, between Cairns and Townsville.

Australian Banana Growers Association president Stephen Lowe, himself a Tully grower, said it highlighted the need for farmers to “ramp up” efforts to protect their own properties.

He thanked the grower, whose property was near the first infected farm, for reporting the suspect plants to authorities so promptly.

“The farm owners have isolated and stopped all access to that block,” Mr Lowe said.

“Their reporting of this is imperative to control the fungus spreading further and affecting more farms.”

Dr Thompson said there was no doubt the fact TR4 had so far not been found beyond the single, known infected farm had “surprised everybody, even around the world”.

“The longer you go the more you hoped that containment is permanent … but this was something we did expect to occur — a slow spread of the disease.

“We’ve got a lot of tracing and investigations to do, if it is confirmed positive, to understand how it may have got there so that’s work still to be done.”