UN Warns Deadly Disease Threatens Banana Production

The new and deadly Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of Fusarium wilt disease is severely affecting more than 6,000 hectares in the Philippines and 40,000 hectares in China.

The Jamaica Observer
Yellow and wilted leaves are typical symptoms of Fusarium wilt, the yellowing typically progresses from the older to the younger leaves.
Yellow and wilted leaves are typical symptoms of Fusarium wilt, the yellowing typically progresses from the older to the younger leaves.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that without global efforts to respond to a fungal disease affecting banana production, the $36 billion global industry, which provides a source of income or food to some 400 million people around the world, is under threat, according to The Jamaica Observer.

The agency and its partners said $47 million is needed to tackle the new and deadly Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of Fusarium wilt disease, part of which would be used to provide swift on-the-ground assistance to countries facing new outbreaks.

“Fusarium wilt disease has been a major challenge in the history of banana production," said FAO’s head of plant protection, Clayton Campanhola.

“After the devastation TR4 recently caused to bananas in parts of Asia, we have to fear its spread in Africa and the Middle East and also to Latin America (in the Caribbean), and consider it as a threat to production globally,” he added.

Campanhola said that fusarium wilt disease, colloquially known as Panama Disease, brought Indonesia's banana exports of more than 100,000 tons annually to a grinding halt, causing annual losses of some US$134 million in revenue in Sumatra alone.

Currently, he said the disease is severely affecting more than 6,000 hectares in the Philippines and 40,000 hectares in China.

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