A banana killing fungus nearly wiped out Latin American plantations six decades ago. Global harvests are once more threatened with a new strain of fungus. The Fusarium wilt started in Australia’s main banana growing state and has now spread to Asia and Africa. It has not spread to Ecuador as of yet; however Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. says it could be a huge nightmare.
The Fresh Del Monte Produce company was able to survive losing it’s top selling banana, Gros Michel in 1950 by switching to, Cavendish . James Dondero warns they do not have a substitute to change to now though. Americans are the largest buyers in exports as they are eating as many bananas as they do oranges and apples. Washington University research leader, Gert Kema says there is no substitute for the Cavendish banana if we lose it to this fungus.
There are over 1,000 varieties of bananas grown; however they are either eaten where they grow or inedible. Exports rely on one uniform variety to make money on. They relied on the Gros Michel and now on the Cavendish. Losing banana breeds is costly. The Cavendish proved to be immune to the fungus; however they were not as tasty as the Gros Michel and they were smaller.
Even though there were differences in the breeds, exports still took off. The new strain of fungus now threatening the Cavendish is called, Panama disease Tropical Race 4. It was discovered in Australia’s Queensland state this year where more than 90% of Australia’s crop is grown.