Tags: Banana | Fungus | Supply | Disease

Banana Supplies Seen by UN's FAO at Risk After Disease Spreads

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 07:27 AM

A disease that damaged banana crops in Southeast Asia has spread to the Middle East and Africa, posing a risk to world supplies of the most-traded fruit, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization.

The TR4 strain of Panama disease, a soil-born fungus that attacks plant roots, is deadly for the Cavendish banana that makes up about 95 percent of supplies to importers, including North America and Europe, Fazil Dusunceli, an agriculture officer at the FAO, said by phone from Rome. While the disease hasn’t reached top Latin America exporters such as Ecuador, Costa Rica or Colombia, TR4 was discovered in Jordan and Mozambique, indicating it moved beyond Asia, he said.

“The export market is dominated by the Cavendish, and it is unfortunately susceptible to this particular race of the disease,” Dusunceli said. “This is serious for the medium term, but at the same time we should avoid panicking too.”

World banana exports were worth a record $8.946 billion in 2011, according to the most recent FAO figures. The U.S. is the biggest importer, followed by Belgium, the data show. Belgium’s Port of Antwerp is the world’s largest banana port, it says.

Tens of thousands of hectares of banana crops in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia have been destroyed since the TR4 strain of Panama disease, a type of Fusarium wilt, first appeared in Asia in the 1990s, according to Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Disease Resistant

A different strain of Panama disease decimated another common banana variety known as Gros Michel in the 1950s, leading producers to switch to Cavendish, which was then resistant, according to the university.

“The Cavendish variety has been very successful in fighting against this disease we must acknowledge, but this is a biological cycle,” Dusunceli said. “For any crop, once we develop a cultivar, then the disease develops more aggressive pathogenic strains against that crop in time. Sometimes it takes a few years, sometimes it takes decades.”

Scientists are working to develop new varieties of bananas that might be resistant to the TR4 strain, “but until that time we just recommend that countries take phytosanitary measures carefully to try to contain the disease,” Dusunceli said.

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A disease that damaged banana crops in Southeast Asia has spread to the Middle East and Africa, posing a risk to world supplies of the most-traded fruit, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization.
Banana,Fungus,Supply,Disease
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2014-27-09
Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 07:27 AM
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