Northern Territory declared banana freckle free

Queensland banana growers have avoided a serious biosecurity risk with the Northern Territory today officially declared banana freckle free.

The successful eradication follows a five year joint effort between the Australian, state and territory governments and the banana industry.

Banana freckle is a pest of banana leaves and fruit caused by a fungal pathogen.

Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the announcement would boost confidence for Queensland growers and the $1.2 billion Australian banana industry.

“Eradication is a tough business so this is a big win for some 700 banana growers across the country,” Littleproud said.

“Growers were staring down the barrel of up to $24 million a year in additional management costs.

“The disease posed a real threat to the livelihoods of many banana growers but swift action saw it contained to the Northern Territory before it was eradicated.”

The fungal disease isn’t a health risk but does stunt the growth of the plant and causes spotting on the fruit, making it less appetising and harder to sell, Littleproud said.

“Had the disease spread to Queensland strict controls would have been put in place and no fruit would have been able to leave the region to be sold to supermarkets across Australia,” he said.

The federal government contributed $6 million to the national response program led by the Northern Territory and assisted with surveillance, monitoring and response planning.

“The partnership between the Northern Territory and the Australian Banana Growers Council was an essential component of the eradication program. The efforts of banana growers who participated in the program in the Northern Territory should also be commended,” Littleproud said.

“Queensland is the powerhouse of the Australian banana industry. In 2016­­­­­­­­­­–17 North Queensland produced 94 per cent of Australia’s banana production for the year.”