The Secretary of Agriculture of Puerto Rico, Carlos Flores, announced that the Government of Puerto Rico has banned the imports of Colombian bananas and plantains to prevent a contagion of the Fusarium Oxysporum Tropical Race 4 plague, which was detected in the department of La Guajira, Colombia.
The Fusarium Oxysporum Tropical Race 4 fungus causes a disease that affects bananas and plantain plantations that causes the plants to wilt and die. This fungus inhabits the soil and forms resistance structures that allow it to remain present and survive there for more than 30 years.
The ban was agreed on at a meeting, on August 22, between Secretary Flores and members of the Banana Producers Association, the Guinee Producers Association, the US Border Patrol, researchers, scientists, and producers, who evaluated the risk that the fungus could present to the island's main economic sector. The ban on banana and plantain imports to the island will also prevent the spread of other diseases, such as Black Sigatoka and bacterial mucus.
The agreed measures include: implementing with full rigor the import quarantine of bananas and plantains to Puerto Rico, establishing an education and training program for agronomists in coordination with the College of Agricultural Sciences of the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico, establishing surveillance by region, and establishing biosafety controls.
Currently, Colombia exports this fruit to more than 20 countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, China, North Korea, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Morocco.
According to Flores, due to the large production of bananas and bananas in Puerto Rico in the more than 7,000 hectares of crops that were recovered after the passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, "we are now self-sufficient and don't need to import these fruits." There are 8,000 plantain producers and some 2,500 banana producers in Puerto Rico.