Caribbean bananas ‘under watch’

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says Caribbean bananas are “under watch”.

In its latest Food Outlook report, the FAO said the world’s most traded fruit is in danger of becoming scarcer, amid rising prices, as a fungal strain spreads across banana plantations in the region and Asia.

The Food Outlook assesses the hypothetical market risks posed by the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) disease on bananas — a vital cash crop threatened by the pathogen, which infects roots and stems.

Conservative estimates suggest that TR4 will take its greatest toll in Asia, FAO warned, “which could lead to a two per cent drop in global output of bananas, cut some 240,000 jobs within the industry, and trigger a near 10 per cent rise in prices over less than a decade”.

“The TR4 threat evokes the ghost of damage done by an earlier fungus to the Gros Michel banana variety in the 1950s,” the FAO said.

It said that the fungus had triggered billions of dollars in losses and led to the rise in popularity of the Cavendish, currently under attack by TR4.

The FAO said bananas can account for one quarter of daily caloric intake for people in rural areas of some countries, and in some cases account for 75 per cent of small farmers’ total income.

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