It is money he said he could ill-afford with a banana glut forcing prices down, but without the measures, the long-term impact of Panama could prove devastating. Australian Banana Growers Council chairman Doug Phillips said it had taken growers some time to come to terms with the biosecurity measures. “Even on little simple things, you know, going to visit the neighbour to just catch up and have a chat, now you know, there was a bit of a reluctance to do that,” he said.
Researchers seeking more resilient banana to replace Cavendish
To safeguard the industry, researchers are looking for a disease-resistant banana variety to replace the popular Cavendish. Professor Andre Drenth, from the University of Queensland’s centre for plant science, is part of a global effort getting closer to finding a more resilient banana variety. He said Panama disease could mean the days of cheap bananas were numbered.
“In the presence of TR4, the cost of production will go up so that means the cost for the consumer will also go up,” he said. “The more the disease spreads, the more the price of the Cavendish will go up. “The perfect banana is a difficult concept. The grower wants something, which is short and highly productive, the middle-man, the retailer wants something that has good shelf life, the consumer wants something that is tasty,” he said. “Out of the large number available, the thousands, we have selected a small number, say about 50 and from those we are trialling about 30 at the moment.”
Government and industry ‘in close partnership’
Biosecurity Queensland Panama program leader Rebecca Sapuppo said the implications for all banana growers were incredibly serious. “It’s not eradicable, it will affect people’s cost of production on those farms and it may in time mean that those individual properties become commercially unviable,” she said. Ms Sapuppo is at the forefront of slowing Panama’s advance. “We’re really hopeful that the measures we’ve got in place here and the close partnership between government and industry will leave us in good stead to slow the disease and allow time for industry to adjust.”