Panama disease threatens Caribbean banana production  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged banana farmers in the Caribbean to take a proactive approach against the deadly Panama disease.
According to officials in the sector, the fungal disease  could spell trouble for food production.
The FAO, in issuing the warning, says the disease could wipe out the sector and poses the biggest threat to the region’s bananas since the Black Sigatoka disease in 1991.
St Lucia’s agriculture minister says for the small islands of the Caribbean, the best response includes collaboration and the adoption of pre-emptive measures.
“This is not a threat only that Saint Lucia is concerned about, so therefore at the regional level, the governments, through the ministries of agriculture, are discussing, first of all to see how best we keep this disease out of our islands,” said Moses Jn Baptiste.
According to the FAO, banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important food crop among the world’s least-developed countries, including the Caribbean.
The FAO says the Panama disease is posing a serious threat to production and export of the fruit with grave repercussions for the banana value chain and livelihoods.
The disease is soil-borne and the fungus can remain viable for decades.
Once the disease is present in a field, the FAO said it cannot be fully controlled by currently available practices and fungicides.
It said the best way to fight the disease is to prevent its spread, which includes avoiding movement of diseased plant materials and infected soil particles

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