Ecuador: Sigatoka puts banana producers at risk

Following the harsh winter, banana producers now face the black sigatoka fungus. High levels of humidity gave way to this disease that impairs the production.

In the first quarter of this year, export volumes fell 13% compared to same period of 2011, due to weather. The black sigatoka also contributed to have these results.

This issue will be analyzed In the IX Banana Forum and I Congress of Biotechnology and Biodiversity, which began yesterday in Guayaquil and will finish next Thursday. Esther Peralta, director of Ecuador´s Biotechnology Research Center (CIBE), explained that the best solution is prevention. In the initial phase of the disease, its spreading can be controlled, but not when it is advanced.

Through CIBE, which operates within the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL), there has been research on genes resistant to this fungus. Their results will be announced at this event, which is organized in parallel with the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE). "Today we have a genetically modified bananas. Not with foreign genes, but with our banana genes that are more
disease resistance. It is one of the important results,"said Peralta.

It is important to control this type of plant health problems, to avoid the use of agrochemicals and therefore have the risk of losing foreign markets, he said. Werner Nader, Eurofins company director, said the European consumers are very aware of the information on pesticide residues. "There are maximum amounts of pesticide residues allowed. When a product does not comply with this it can not be marketed in Europe," said Nader, of German origin and guest lecturer.

According to Nader, in the last 12 years the EU has sent 83 notifications of problems with Ecuadorian products but only two were for bananas. That's a good result for the sector, although it was suggested to be careful with the use of disinfectants. But that's a post-harvest process, not field, he said.


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