Banana freckle is a disease of banana leaves and fruit. It's caused by the Phyllosticta cavendishii fungus. The disease is a serious threat to the Australian banana industry. It also affects backyard growers.
There is no risk to food safety or human health from eating bananas infected with this disease.
- Detection in Australia
- Response program
- Your obligations
- About the pest
Detection in Australia
Phyllosticta cavendishii (banana freckle) was detected in May 2022 in the Northern Territory (NT). It’s unknown how and when the pest entered Australia.
The infected premises (locations where banana freckle has been found) are mainly within the Batchelor-Rum Jungle area, around 100km south of Darwin, and in the Girraween-Humpty Doo area, around 35km southeast of Darwin. Localised detections were found in Middle Point, Marrakai, Fly Creek, and on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands.
Banana freckle was previously detected on Cavendish bananas in the NT in 2013. A national cost-shared $24 million eradication response ran from 2013-2019. Banana freckle was declared eradicated in 2019.
This current detection is a new incursion and not linked to the previous outbreak. The NT government is responding to this outbreak.
A different species of fungus found in Australia that looks similar to banana freckle is the fungus Phyllosticta maculata. This species is not found in commercially grown bananas.
The NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) leads the response to this detection.
A $5.5 million Response Plan has been approved and covers all aspects of the response, including:
- monitoring and early detection
- removal of host plants on infected premises
- eradication and proof of freedom activities until 2024
- continued monitoring to ensure premises remain free of host plants for a minimum of 12 months.
The plan was endorsed through the national emergency plant pest response arrangements. Costs are shared by the Australian, state and territory governments, and affected industry parties. The NT government contributes extra resources and funding to the eradication program.
Check your bananas
If you’re in Darwin, Palmerston, or rural areas of NT, you can arrange a banana health check. Call 08 8999 2136 or email bananafreckle.nt.@nt.gov.au
If you suspect an exotic pest or disease outbreak, report it. Even if you’re not sure.
Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. This will put you in touch with your state or territory’s biosecurity agency.
For signs of exotic pests and diseases in imported goods, sea containers or parcels, call See. Secure. Report on 1800 798 636 or use our online form
Follow the rules
Keep exotic dangerous pests and diseases out of Australia. Never ignore our strict biosecurity rules.
Import shipments may need to be treated and certified, so before you import, check our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).
Restrictions are in place to stop movement of plants, plant material and fruit from infected or suspect premises.
NT growers have been advised they cannot send any banana fruit or plant material out of the territory without approval. In addition, Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia prohibit the entry of banana fruit and plant material from NT. There are quarantine checkpoints at some state borders.
Dispose of all banana fruit, peel and material in appropriate waste bins. Do not discard onto the ground or on other plants wherever you are in Australia. Do not take banana fruit, the peel or banana plant material out of the area where you bought it.
See more on banana freckle in your state or territory:
You can also check the Australian Interstate Quarantine website.
About the pest
Banana freckle is a pest of banana leaves and fruit caused by the fungal pathogen Phyllosticta cavendishii. This fungus infects Cavendish and non-Cavendish bananas. Banana freckle is not established in Australia.
Banana freckle reduces the productivity of banana plants. Affected bananas are safe to eat but blemishes on the skin reduce their visual appeal and saleability.
Banana freckle appears as dark raised spots that feel like fine sandpaper on the leaves or fruit. On fruit, spots first appear as minute, reddish-brown flecks surrounded by a halo of dark-green, water-soaked tissue.
Banana freckle has been recorded in 27 countries across southeast Asia, India, and Oceania.