Programme to contain huge threat to world's bananas - FAO

UN agency, partners start campaign against new strain of fungus

Programme to contain huge threat to world's bananas - FAO

Rome, October 18 - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Wednesday that a new global programme is being launched to contain a huge threat to the world's banana production. The Rome-based United Nations agency said a new strain of a fungus could cause vast commercial losses and even greater damage to the livelihoods of the 400 million people who rely on the world's most traded fruit as a staple food or source of income. FAO and its partners Bioversity International, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the World Banana Forum have launched a global programme requiring $98 million to contain and manage the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of Fusarium wilt. This is an insidious disease that can last for years in soils and can hitchhike to new fields and destinations through a number of means such as infected planting materials, water, shoes, farm tools and vehicles, the FAO said. "This is a major threat to banana production in several regions of the world," said Hans Dreyer, Director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division. "We need to move quickly to prevent its further spread from where it is right now and to support already affected countries in their efforts to cope with the disease. "The long term resilience of banana production systems can only be improved through continuous monitoring, robust containment strategies, strengthening national capacities and enhancing international collaboration to deploy integrated disease management approaches". Fusarium wilt TR4 was first detected in Southeast Asia in the 1990s and has now been identified at 19 sites in 10 countries, including the Near East, South Asia and Mozambique in sub-Saharan Africa. The global programme is initially targeting 67 countries in a bid to prevent its spread and management. Without a coordinated intervention, scientists estimate that the disease could affect up to 1.6 million hectares of current banana lands by 2040, representing one-sixth of current global production with an estimated annual value of USD 10 billion. The programme aims to reduce the potentially affected area by up to 60 percent.

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