​Media Release

Rapid Response to Panama disease threat

17 March 2015

The Australian Government is providing expert staff and funding for specialised equipment to assist the Queensland Government’s response to a case of Panama disease, Tropical Race 4 (Fusarium wilt), detected on Cavendish bananas at a property in the Tully Valley, North Queensland.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the government had activated its Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative (SBQI) to provide assistance and support to Biosecurity Queensland, which was investigating the suspected outbreak.

“The Australian Government is contributing specialised personnel to help with tracing and planning activities,” Minister Joyce said.

“We are also providing support to Biosecurity Queensland to enable acquisition of technical assistance and specialist high-throughput diagnostic equipment, so that large numbers of plant samples can be rapidly processed.

“While the Queensland Government is responsible for leading the response to this incident, the Australian Government is working closely with Biosecurity Queensland to render any necessary support, and we are treating this potentially serious threat to Australia’s $490 million a year banana industry as a priority.

“The key to a well-managed response is good preparation and planning—it is paramount that we ensure that good hygiene is maintained to prevent the disease being spread,” Minister Joyce said.

The affected property is quarantined and movement of plant material, soil, machinery, equipment and vehicles on and off the farm is restricted.

Community forums are also being held in banana producing regions of North Queensland to inform growers and promote the importance of strong on-farm biosecurity.

Minister Joyce said that while the disease was potentially very destructive to banana plants, it was important to remember that it posed no threat to human health.

Panama disease is considered to be one of the most destructive diseases of banana. It is spread by soil and water, and with movement of infected planting material. Panama disease, Tropical race 4, is present in South East Asia and the Northern Territory.

For more information on this issue visit the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website at daff.qld.gov.au/plants/health-pests-diseases/a-z-significant/panama-disease2​​.

If you suspect Panama disease on your plants, contact Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23 or call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.