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A man works on a banana farm in Carepa, Colombia, March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga - RC116458B3E0

Bananas “under watch” as disease threatens region

A man works on a banana farm in Carepa, Colombia, March 17, 2017. Picture taken March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga - RC116458B3E0

Caribbean bananas are “under watch” as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) amid growing scarcity concerns.

Bananas
Bananas

According to the “Food Outlook” report by the FAO, bananas could become threated as the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) disease continues to pose a threat to the crop.

There has been an increase in the price of bananas, the world’s most traded fruit, as the TR4 disease continues to spread across estates in the region and Asia, the United Nations agency said.

Bananas account for 75% of income for some small farmers. (Photo: JIS)

Global production could fall approximately two per cent, and put up to 240,000 people at risk of unemployment in the next decade as the fungal strain spreads and affects the important cash crop, particularly across Asia.

Already, more than 175,000 hectares of bananas and plantains were destroyed in Colombia after the disease was identified there August. It’s the first time it was being seen in this hemisphere.

The FAO said bananas account for a quarter of daily caloric intake for people in rural areas of some countries, and in some cases account for 75 per cent of small farmers’ total income.

Colombia destroyed 175,000 hectares of bananas and plantains in August as TR4 affected its crop. (Photo: Financial Times)

An emergency project was launched in the region last month as the FAO seeks to fight plant losses by TR4.

While the disease is harmless to humans it could easily spread through planting materials, and movement of infested soil particles on shoes, vehicles and in water, the FAO said.

No effective soil treatment or cure exists for the disease, and its spores have been found to be resistant to fungicides.

Just last month, Jamaica’s Agriculture Ministry said it is on high alert as it tries to safeguard the industry against the disease. In response, it has implemented a ban on the importation of banana and plantains. Additionally, it introduced disinfectant mats at the island’s airports and cruise ship piers and created a lab to conduct tests for early identification of the disease should it reach the country.