Global Banana Crop Doomed

Plague and insects threaten the fruit's future

Dec 17, 2013
Outside Magazine
tombstone chiquita banana sticker plague fungus supply threatened costa rica

Well, there's always money in the banana stand...    Daniel D. Snyder

Researchers around the world are expressing serious concerns over the future of everyone's favorite (frozen and chocolate-covered, preferably) source of potassium. Crops are being bombarded with wave after wave of plague insects and fungal infections, rendering vast swaths of bananas worthless or inedible.

Costa Rica, whose half-billion-dollar banana industry makes it one of the world's largest suppliers of the fruit, has declared a "national emergency," having now lost 20 percent of its produce this year.

Magda Gonzalez, director of Costa Rica's State Phytosanitary Services, blames the spike in afflictions on climate change, saying that warmer temperatures have boosted infectious insect populations. “I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests,” she told The Tico Times.

Scientific American also has a report on a dangerous new strain of fungus, which, if left unchecked could combine with increased infestations to devastate the world's supply of bananas. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp.cubense was supposedly limited to parts of Asia and Australia but has now been found in Jordan and Mozambique in a new, more dangerous form.

“It’s a gigantic problem,” says Rony Swennen of Tanzania's International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. "I will not be surprised if it pops up in Latin America in the near future.”

Latin America and the Caribbean currently account for more than 80 percent of the world's supply of bananas. Should the virus reach those shores, it could spell doom for the banana.

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