The Palaszczuk Government is to partner with the banana industry in a $15.9 million project to better protect future crops from pests and disease.
Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment, Curtis Pitt, said the initiative would benefit banana growers and those employed in the industry’s supply and distribution chain.
Mr Pitt said the Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry project will include trials of varieties with better pest and disease resistance.
“This initiative with the horticultural sector’s grower-owned R&D and marketing organisation, Horticulture Innovation Australia, will bolster support to banana producers,” he said.
“It will be managed by the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and will work towards developing access to banana varieties with improved pest and disease resilience.
“Plant protection from pests and diseases is an integral part of agricultural production systems, as it affects many aspects including risk of crop failures, fruit quality and market access.
“We have responded quickly and effectively to the Panama Tropical Race 4, but we can take nothing for granted because bananas are a vital part of the nation’s food industry and play an important economic role here in Queensland as well as in NSW and WA.”
Mr Pitt said the Australian Banana Growers’ Council advised that at present there was minimal exports of bananas.
“However, further industry development and projects like the new project with HIA may one day open up new overseas markets,” he said.
“If and when that happens, Cairns and in particular Cairns Airport, would be a natural export gateway to get fresh bananas quickly to potential export markets.”
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said a successful project outcome could see substantial industry growth, creating significant jobs growth in production regions, and protection of existing jobs through better management of potentially devastating pests and diseases.
“Bananas are one of our most important crops but the outbreak of Panama Tropical Race 4 in 2015 put the spotlight on their vulnerability to disease,” Mr Byrne said.
“I am extremely proud that the biosecurity response put in place by the Palaszczuk Government, working hand in glove with producers and the industry, has been so successful.”
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ General Manager, Horticulture and Forestry Science Michael Kennedy said the project would address four main themes.
“The Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry project will provide access to trials of banana varieties with improved pest, disease, agronomic and consumer preference traits,” Dr Kennedy said.
“It will also ensure access to clean planting material, providing facilities and processes for new banana cultivars to be safely imported into Australia; improve banana integrated pest and disease management; and bring together the network of scientists working in the plant protection field of the Australian banana industry.”
The project builds on the outcomes and successes from a recently completed University of Queensland and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ and Horticulture Innovation Australia collaboration, and has gone through an extensive consultation process between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and other project partners and industry.
Horticulture Innovation Australia chief executive John Lloyd said more than five years of research to support the banana industry to date has proven invaluable when dealing with disease incursions.
He said this new research would arm industry with the tools it needs to continue to meet consumer demand and combat pest and disease threats well into the future.
“The Australian banana industry is thriving with the fruit being one of the top-selling supermarket snacking items in the country.
“What this research will do is ensure the industry’s vitality for years to come by strengthening its biosecurity defences through the development of new varieties while focussing on even lower chemical usage in line with consumer expectations,” he said.
The anticipated project completion date is December 2021.