Hinchinbrook MP, Andrew Cripps, says a suspected case of Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) in the Mareeba area, if confirmed, would be a ‘game changer’ for the banana industry in North Queensland and could result in a change of direction for the biosecurity response.

Mr Cripps said the announcement from Biosecurity Queensland (BQ), that it had placed a quarantine order on a property in the Mareeba area, was a huge blow to the banana industry and meant the focus of the biosecurity strategy would now need to be reconsidered.

“Until now, confirmed TR4 cases have been confined to a single property in the Tully area and the biosecurity response has been focused on containment to try and prevent the spread of the disease, which was always the optimistic, best case scenario” said Mr Cripps.

“If the suspected case in the Mareeba area is confirmed, I expect BQ will change its focus and activities to emphasise the adoption of best practice biosecurity measures on every single banana growing property in North Queensland” he said.

“There is no doubt that BQ and the Australian Banana Growers Council (ABGC) have been strongly urging the increased adoption of these best practice biosecurity measures since TR4 was first identified in the Tully area, but now it will become imperative” said Mr Cripps.

“Of course, while this remains a suspected case until further advanced testing is undertaken, if TR4 is now a factor in a second major growing area of North Queensland, I have no doubt biosecurity authorities and industry will need to rethink their strategy” he said.

Mr Cripps said bananas were a major economic driver for many local communities in North Queensland and news that TR4 had potentially spread to a second growing area would be devastating news not just for growers, but for industry employees and local businesses.

“With about two thirds of Australia’s bananas being grown in the Hinchinbrook electorate, I’ll be continuing to work closely with the ABGC and all levels of government to ensure the most effective response is rolled out to support this iconic Australian industry” said Mr Cripps.

“I have confidence in the Australian Banana Growers Council and they will have my full support in trying to secure the resources we need to minimise and manage the impact of TR4 on our growers and the local communities that are involved in this industry” he said.

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