Ecuador, the largest global banana supplier, is being threatened by a devastating fungus that may affect plantations across the country.
Latin American banana growers received troubling news earlier this month. A banana-killing virus that caused devastating losses in Asia is believed to have reached four plantations in Colombia.
The fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4) kills the banana plants by clogging their vascular system. While the four Colombian plantations are under quarantine, confirmation of the fungus’ presence has yet been released putting neighboring countries on high alert.
As the leading banana exporter in the world, Ecuador has placed the prevention of TR4 from entering the country as a “No. 1 priority” according to Xavier Lazo Guerrero.
Guerrero, the country’s minister of agriculture and livestock, spoke to ScienceInsider regarding preparations for the threatening fungus.
“This is a danger to our economy,” Guererro says. “We have more than 16,000 producers of bananas, plantains, and other banana like crops. Unlike the rest of Latin America, there are many small-scale producers here that provide for their families. The overall industry employs more than 2.5 million people. It accounts for 17% of the population’s employment and is worth more than $3 billion.”
According to Guerrero, the ministry has taken multiple actions and contingencies to fight against the fungus.
“We [have also] formed biosecurity protocols that are part of a larger plan to stay ahead of this fungus. We’ll have almost 1000 technical experts deployed in [banana-growing zones]. We’re distributing information on how to prevent and diagnose the fungus, and what to do in case symptoms of the disease are found.”