Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has called on the Gillard Government to immediately provide reassurance to the battered north Queensland banana industry that it will not relax the protocols for banana imports from the Philippines.
“Cyclone Yasi has wiped out around 75% of the banana crop in north Queensland. This is a massive blow to banana growers, many of whom had to borrow to the hilt to begin production after Cyclone Larry.
“In March 2009, Biosecurity Australia announced that bananas could be imported into Australia from the Philippines under certain strict protocols. Banana growers were outraged by the decision and concerned diseases such as black Sigatoka, Moko and Freckle may enter the country from the Philippines and potentially wipe out our domestic crop.” Senator Boswell said.
As a result, strict and rigorous quarantine protocols were developed in consultation with the Queensland banana industry. These included the mandatory presence of AQIS officers on banana farms, in packing sheds and wharves to test for the presence of disease in bananas bound for export to Australia.
The Philippines Government was tasked with proving to Australian authorities how it would ensure that diseases including black Sigatoka, Moko and Freckle could be stopped from entering into Australia. These protocols would then be reviewed by Biosecurity Australia.
To date no response has been forthcoming from the Philippines Government on how it proposes to satisfy Biosecurity Australia requirements and there is no framework to even consider an application to export bananas to Australia.
But Senator Boswell warns this is no time for complacency.
“Banana growers need to hear reassurance from the Prime Minister that the Government will not relax current protocols for the importation of bananas from the Philippines.
“In what may be a slight reprieve for the industry and consumers, many growers will hopefully see their next crop mature in September this year owing to Cyclone Yasi striking early in the year, as opposed to Cyclone Larry which struck later in the year (March 2006). Additionally, a larger concentration of bananas is produced in areas not affected by Yasi.” Senator Boswell said.