The November 2019 issue of the Food Outlook published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) features an article written by Sabine Altendorf on “Banana Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4: A mounting threat to global banana markets?


According to the Altendorf, Fusarium Wilt TR4 is more deadly than previous strains because it affects more banana and plantain varieties and can quickly cause a total loss of yield. It also has currently no effective fungicide or eradication measure and can live for decades in the soil, rendering banana plantations unusable for generations. The livelihoods of banana farmers are at risk as managing and containing the disease has proven to be a costly endeavor.


The article recounts the devastating effect of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense on the Gros Michel banana industry, with an estimated trade losses amounting to a current equivalent of USD 2.3 billion. The current strain, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), poses a bigger threat on the Cavendish banana industry today: it is now present in 17 countries, mostly in South and Southeast Asia. However, it has also spread to Colombia and puts the rest of South America at risk.


To assess the potential impacts of TR4 , Altendorf used a partial equilibrium commodity market model covering national and international banana markets. She predicts that TR4 spread will mostly likely have the biggest effect on Asia, up to a total of 2.0% decrease in global output that leads to a loss of 240,000 jobs and a 9.2% increase in the price of bananas by 2028.


Altendorf implores for elevated vigilance of the banana sector as production in the future may only be feasible for growers that were able to implement advanced management techniques and higher investments on disease prevention.


Source: Food Outlook, November 2019

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