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Caribbean farmers abandoning diseased banana fields

Black sigatoka fungus (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Black sigatoka fungus
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Black Sigatoka is currently threatening Caribbean banana and plantain crops, causing some farmers to abandon their crops. In response, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been providing training on the effective use of fungicides to control and elimitate the disease for technicians from Dominica, St Lucia, Grenada, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines. The technicians are also being taught how to assess the disease's sensitivity to fungicides and develop more effective treatment plans. According to reports from the Caribbean Media Corporation, efforts to eradicate the disease by cutting back affected crops in St Vincent and the Grenadines are being hindered by some farmers who are failing to replant with disease-free varieties or alternative crops. "We are seeing the re-growth of the (affected) bananas in those areas," says Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation. "It is providing the perfect environment for Black Sigatoka."

The disease affects the leaves of affected plants, affecting their ability to produce quality fruit and causing premature ripening. "With banana constituting the world's fourth most valuable food staple, Black Sigatoka is particularly devastating, affecting over 50% of this US$2.5 billion crop," explains Ron Dinar, CEO of Rahan, a leading fruit biotechnology and breeding company. "The disease has the capacity to reduce yields by 35-50%, causing tremendous impact to growers in major producing countries of Central America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa and the Far East". According to a report from The St Lucia Mirror, since the disease was detected in 1991 in the region, the value of banana exports in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been reduced by 90 per cent. Within two to three years of the disease establishing itself, exports of plantains from Guyana also declined, by 100 per cent.

Date published: September 2013

 

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