FERAL pig control in Far North Queensland will be bolstered in a bid to save Queensland’s $600 million banana industry from panama disease.
The State Government today announced a further $3.5 million would be injected into containing the spread of disease, with measures including increased surveillance and feral pig control.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the funding in Tully where the TR4 strain was first identified in March 2015 and where a second detection was confirmed in July.
Since the first confirmed detection, the State Government has invested almost $24 million to contain the spread of the disease.
“Biosecurity Queensland has worked hand in glove with growers, local councils and the Australian Banana Growers Council to limit the spread to two properties, but the government has consistently said there can be no room for complacency,” Mr Furner said.
“Today I am announcing further investments in surveillance and targeted action including more than $900,000 over three years for feral pig control as wild pigs can spread the disease as they move from property to property.
“And with early detection critical to containing the disease, $2.4 million of the new funding will be allocated towards increasing surveillance across Far North Queensland, focussing on the properties most at risk.”
Australian Banana Growers Council Chair Stephen Lowe said the commitment of $2.4 million towards the on-going Panama TR4 Program for the remainder of 2016/17 was good news for the industry, which had sought additional funding for the program, following the second confirmed detection of the disease in Tully earlier this year.
“The continuation of the Panama TR4 program, led by Biosecurity Queensland, and the current TR4 regulations are critical to the industry’s on-going fight to contain the spread of this severe disease,” Mr Lowe said.
“With two farms in the Tully Valley confirmed as having TR4 since March 2015, at this stage any relaxation in our combined biosecurity efforts would put the nation’s entire banana industry at serious risk.”
He said the industry welcomed Mr Furner’s commitment today for more than $900,000 over three years to manage feral pigs so as to help contain the spread of TR4.
“In July this year, ABGC requested State Government support for a comprehensive feral pig program in Panama areas, following the second confirmed detection of TR4.”
“We are grateful that these serious concerns have been heard and the government has responded.”
Feral pigs are recognised as a serious vector of the soil-borne disease, as they habitually frequent banana farms to feed.
In the past five months, growers in the Tully Valley with the assistance of the ABGC, have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a dedicated feral pig control program, including widespread aerial shooting.
“Growers should be commended for their efforts and we thank them for the time and dollars they have spent trying to bring the increasing pig infestations under control,” Mr Lowe said.
It is hoped that the additional funds will allow for a local feral pig co-ordinator to organise clusters of farmers in the Tully Valley to collectively bait, trap and aerial shoot feral pigs in Panama areas.
Mr Furner praised the growers for their continued vigilance to enforce strict on-farm biosecurity measures to protect their farms from the disease.
“Many growers continue the fight to keep Panama disease TR4 at bay every day. Even though it has been over two and half years since the initial detection, their resolve has not waivered,” he said.