Deadly fungus poses threat to 26-billion-pound worth of global banana crop
Scientists suggest that the world's banana crop, worth 26 billion pounds and a crucial part of the diet of more than 400 million people, is facing "disaster" from virulent diseases immune to pesticides or other forms of control.
Alarm at the most potent threat - a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) - has risen dramatically after it was announced in recent weeks that it has jumped from South-east Asia, where it has already devastated export crops, to Mozambique and Jordan.
A United Nations agency told The Independent that the spread of TR4 represents an "expanded threat to global banana production".
Experts said there is a risk that the fungus, for which there is currently no effective treatment, has also already made the leap to the world's most important banana growing areas in Latin America, where the disease threatens to destroy vast plantations of the Cavendish variety. The variety accounts for 95 percent of the bananas shipped to export markets including the United Kingdom, in a trade worth 5.4 billion pounds.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will warn in the coming days that the presence of TR4 in the Middle East and Africa means "virtually all export banana plantations" are vulnerable unless its spread can be stopped and new resistant strains developed.
Scientists are particularly concerned about the impact of TR4 across the developing world, where an estimated 410 million people rely on the fruit for up to a third of their daily calories.
According to one estimate, TR4 could destroy up to 85 percent of the world's banana crop by volume.
(Posted on 05-04-2014)