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Devastating disease places bananas at risk

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Banana lovers beware – your smoothies and splits may be altered forever if a crippling banana virus continues to spread through Queensland.

The potentially devastating Panama TR4 disease poses a more serious threat to the state’s far north than Cyclone Nathan, a Queensland mayor has warned.

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Cassowary Coast Mayor Bill Shannon said on Monday that if Panama TR4 spreads, the flow-on effects to the region would be widespread.

“We’re extremely concerned. This is up there as a far greater issue than a cyclone … there are so many ramifications,” he told AAP.

Mr Shannon said the disease, which was recently detected on a farm near Tully, south of Cairns, could decimate the $570 million banana industry, reduce tourist numbers and raise the cost of living.

He said the banana industry was labour intensive and relies heavily on backpackers, who would likely not stay and spend money in the region for as long if there was no year-round work on the farms.

He said the price of goods like furniture, food, clothes and hardware that were brought up from the southern states would also rise if there was nothing to send back down.

“It’s very important to keep those freight rates down and one way to do that is to have a very solid trucking industry going back down south,” he said.

“If you didn’t have the freight – bananas – going back down south the price of everything in far north Queensland will go up very significantly.”

The threat has sent the industry into crisis mode as it fights to contain the same soil-borne fungus that decimated the Northern Territory industry in the 1990s.

— with AAP

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