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Feral-pigs spread of Panama TR4 in Queensland banana farms

Posted By uhunt     Aug 10    

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Pigs carrying infected soil through the banana growing districts of Far North Queensland could spell a biosecurity disaster for the industry, farmers say. The $600 million industry has shifted into damage control following the latest outbreak of Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 on a Tully property. Part of the biosecurity plan to halt the spread of the fungus includes movement-control measures to prevent the soil-borne pathogen from entering farms. Farmer Steven Lizzio, who grows bananas at Silkwood, 30 kilometres north of Tully, said pigs were a biosecurity headache for farmers. He said they travelled long distances and carried a ''fair bit of dirt''. On Tuesday night in the Queensland Parliament, Shadow Agriculture Minister Dale Last called on the Agriculture Minister, Mr Bill Byrne, to do more to combat pig numbers in the region. "The numbers of feral pigs in the Tully and Innisfail area have exploded in recent years, which is not surprising given the location and ad hoc approach to feral pig control," Mr Last said. "Feral pigs can easily travel 20 to 30 kilometres in a single night, and the risk they pose to farmers in terms of spreading TR4 disease is substantial." Control of feral pigs is the responsibility of landholders and local councils. But Mr Last wants a State Government-led program to target the pests, saying it's a task beyond the capacity of local pig hunters and banana growers. Changes in strategy Mr Lizzio said that the methods of pig control have to change following the new biosecurity guidelines. "Traps are something that have been trialled and they work really well,'' he said. He said because of TR4, it was longer 4realistic for pig hunters to operate in banana paddocks. Mr Lizzio said it should be the responsibility of every farmer to use traps. Mr Lizzio said he would like to see more intervention in national parks, which fringe the region's banana farms with thick scrub and rainforest. "It's where our big issues are,'' he said. ''I think the Government needs to step in. They own the national parks, so get in and clean up the feral pigs issues that are breeding up in there." Assurance sought from Commonwealth Mr Byrne said the Government was responding to the Panama Disease outbreak with exclusion fences to control animal movements as part of a $24 million response. He said he was concerned about the large numbers of feral pigs inhabiting the Department of Defence's Tully Training Area. "In the weeks after the initial [TR4] detection in March 2015 I wrote to the Minister for Defence raising the issue and the significant risk posed in terms of disease spread," Mr Byrne said. "I sought urgent assurances that the Department of Defence had allocated appropriate funds and resources to pig control on its property." In addition to exclusionary fencing, the minister said he had discussed the availability of semi-automatic firearms to farmers worried about pig numbers in the wake of the TR4 confirmation.

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