Fears of world banana shortage as Colombia declares national emergency

Fears of a world banana shortage grow as Colombia declares national emergency after finding destructive fungus in soil

  • The fungus has been detected across 180 hectares in the province of La Guajira 
  • It could halt imports of the five billion bananas that come to the UK every year
  • Genetic modification and exploiting wild varieties may help find a solution

By Miles Dilworth For The Daily Mail

Published: 20:33 EDT, 14 August 2019 | Updated: 21:38 EDT, 14 August 2019

The hit 1920s song ‘Yes, we have no bananas’ was penned following a global shortage of the popular fruit.

Now the ditty is in danger of becoming reality once again as a devastating disease ravages the world’s biggest plantations.

Colombia has declared a national emergency after a destructive fungus was found in its soil.

Colombia has declared a national emergency after a destructive fungus was found across nearly 180 hectares of soil used to grow bananas in the northeastern province of La Guajira

Since the 1990s a fungus called Panama Disease has been spreading across Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East. Wherever it took hold, commercial growing ceased.

The consolation was that the Americas, the largest producer, had remained untouched.

And now the Fusarium type 4 (TR4) organism was detected across nearly 180 hectares in the northeastern province of La Guajira.

The situation is so serious that could halt imports of the five billion bananas that come to the UK every year.

All cultivated bananas are a strain known as Cavendish and their lack of genetic diversity leaves them vulnerable to extinction.

It is hoped that genetic modification and exploiting wild varieties may help find a solution.

The fungus could halt the imports of the five billion bananas that come to the UK every year

Bananas are Colombia’s third-biggest agricultural export, while neighbouring Ecuador is the world’s largest grower.

The Cavendish was first cultivated in the hot houses of the stately home Chatsworth in Derbyshire belonging to the Cavendish family, better known as the Dukes of Devonshire.

For decades, it was second to the Gros Michel, or Big Mike, in commercial growing.they were not the commercial growers’ choice – that was another banana, Gros Michel, or Big Mike.

But in the early 1920s the Gros Michel fell victim to the first known strain of Panama disease, which wiped it out.

The Cavendish was resistant to this strain and for decades it has underpinned the success of the industry.

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