Six decades after a banana-killing fungus all but wiped out plantations across Latin America, a new strain threatens to destroy global harvests.
A type of Fusarium wilt appeared this year in Australia’s main banana-growing state after spreading to Asia and Africa. While the fungus has been around since the 1990s and has yet to affect top exporter Ecuador, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. called it a potential “big nightmare.” The United Nations says the disease threatens supply, and Latin American growers are taking steps to limit the risk.
“The monoculture, the reliance on a single banana breed [Cavendish] that makes all this possible [commercial viability] — that makes the low margins work — also makes that fruit very susceptible to disruption,” said Dan Koeppel, who has traveled to 30 countries to sample varieties and wrote Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. “The biggest problem is disease.” [clarification added by TSJ]