FAO launches emergency project to combat banana disease threat
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched an emergency project under its Technical Cooperation Program to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fight the spread of Fusarium wilt, a fungal plant disease that can wipe out the banana crops upon which the livelihoods of millions of people depend.
The disease — caused by the most recent strain (Tropical Race 4, TR4) of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense — affects the production of many varieties of plantains and bananas, including Cavendish, one of the globally most popular varieties in the market.
TR4 damages the roots and stems of the plant and, while not harmful to human health, can lead to 100 percent yield losses, making it a major concern for countries and communities where banana production is a critical source of food, household income, and export revenues.
To recall, TR4 was recently detected for the first time in Latin America and the Caribbean in Colombia, where 175 hectares of banana farms have now been put under quarantine by the Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (ICA).
Nearby Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter, while Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala are also major producers. If the disease spreads, it would have devastating impacts for farmers and their families across the region.
“The role of bananas in providing food and household income in this region cannot be understated. In several countries, this crop has national economic importance, as it is a major export. Together, we can curb the spread of this devastating disease, and protect livelihoods,” said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué.
“This emergency project will assist countries in developing regional and national action plans, increasing their capacities to prevent, diagnose, monitor and contain outbreaks, and raise awareness and disseminate information among farming communities,” he added.