Australian banana growers will be asked to partially fund the purchase of a North Queensland farm infested with the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Panama disease.
The Australian Banana Grower’s Council (ABGC) announced on Thursday (30 June) that it had signed a conditional sales agreement for the farm, that will eventually enable the closure of its operations.
The Australian government has committed one third of the funding for the purchase, while the ABGC will ask growers to fund the other two thirds via a levy.
“Our focus now is to run a national levy ballot to fund TR4 containment and management including our share of the purchase of the infected farm,” said ABGC chairman Doug Phillips. “The ABGC will be meeting with banana growers in a series of grower meetings across the country. The federal government’s one-third contribution to this purchase is very welcome.”
The developments follow intensive negotiations with the owners of the infested property and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
In February, Phillips acknowledged the buyout option had been “fully discussed” following two rounds of failed negations with the farm’s owners. At that time he indicated the industry would focus its attentions on other options in response to the outbreak.
“It has been a challenging time in terms of setting the best path for biosecurity management in the face of such a potentially destructive disease,” Phillips said upon announcing the sales agreement. “It has also been a difficult situation for the family who have owned and worked the infected farm. I certainly acknowledge the ongoing stress they have been under since TR4 was discovered there.”
Phillips said the eventual closure of the Tully property would limit the movement of soil, and thus prevent the spread of TR4 across the most productive banana region in the country.
“Ninety-three per cent of Australia’s bananas are grown in North Queensland,” he explained. “It is absolutely vital that we do everything in our power to protect the industry from any further spread of this disease.”
The final settlement of the agreement is subject to key conditions, including a successful ballot of banana growers to accept the proposed banana levy increase.