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Fungus raises fears for Latin American banana crop

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Subject

Banana fungus.

Significance

Colombia this month declared a national emergency, following confirmation of the presence of Fusarium tropical race 4 (TR4), a soil-based fungus which attacks banana plants. This is the first time that TR4 has been found in Latin America, the region responsible for up to four-fifths of the world’s banana exports. Exporters beyond Colombia have reacted with alarm.

Impacts

  • Banana companies fear a drastic reduction in Latin American banana exports over the next 5-10 years.
  • Finding a replacement variety, or developing a genetically modified Cavendish, could take 5-6 years, driving market uncertainty.
  • Major regional producers face the need to implement costly soil contamination containment measures.
  • The spread of TR4 to Venezuela, where bananas and plantains are an important staple food, could drive further outward migration.
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