Banana Supply Face Critical Threat As Fungus Wipes Out Plantations Across Latin America

Friday, June 5, 2015
By Paul Martin

by Phoebe Sedgman
Bloomberg.com
June 4, 2015

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 industry survived the demise of the top-selling Gros Michel banana in the 1950s by switching to a different variety, called the Cavendish. But this time, there’s no ready substitute. Americans now eat bananas almost as much as apples and oranges combined, and are the biggest buyers in an export market valued at more than $7 billion.

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