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Latin American bananas still threatened by Panama Tropical Race 4

Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4), is spreading across Latin America. Virtually undetectable and untreatable, the disease is a serious threat to farmers of Cavendish bananas, the most commercialized banana variety in the world. TR4, a fungal disease which lives in the soil, remains undetected for decades and spreads easily via contaminated plant material, water, and soil. It can lead to a 100 percent yield loss of the Cavendish banana.

Worldwide, the Cavendish banana accounts for 47 percent of global production. In 2019, 80 percent of global banana exports came from Latin America and the Caribbean. The importance of Cavendish bananas for Latin America’s economy makes the presence of TR4 particularly concerning. TR4 was first reported in Latin America in 2019, after being detected in Colombia. This was followed by a second report in northern Peru in April 2021.

Both cases triggered the declaration of a national emergency in Colombia and Peru, and swift action by companies and government institutions alike, promoting infrastructure investment and biosecurity protocols across Latin American countries.

Countries such as Ecuador are now on high alert for TR4. Juan José Pons, coordinator of the Ecuadorian Banana Cluster, tells Food Tank that while TR4 has not yet been detected in Ecuador, the disease “will not only affect the banana sector but will also jeopardize the economic stability of the country.”


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