The International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (Oirsa) issued an alert on Sunday to prevent the advance of the destructive wilt disease in banana plantations across Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, home to many of the world’s largest plantations.
According to a statement from the San Salvador-based agency, Oirsa suspects the presence of symptoms associated with the pest in the municipality of Riochacha, department of La Guajira, Colombia, with farms that have since been quarantined.
The wilt of musaceas (in bananas and plantains), or tropical fusarium race 4 wilt (Foct TR4), is a disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, which has devastated the industry in Asian and African countries, with millions in losses, Oirsa said.
In this regard, the regional body called for additional inspections of products and byproducts to prevent the spread of wilt.
It also requested immediate measures in points of entrance to each country, such as sanitary napkins soaked with disinfectant for passengers to clean their footwear prior to exiting aircraft.
Oirsa also requested additional review from post offices, with a goal of inspecting 100% of shipments coming from countries where the disease is found.
Wilt is native to Asia, where it has spread to Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India, and other countries such as Jordan and Israel.
Race One of Wilt caused an epidemic in the 1950s and 1960s which impacted the banana export industry in the Americas and caused the disappearance of many commercial plantations. The estimated economic impact was $2.3 billion dollars to export companies alone.
Oirsa warns that in Latin America, the plague could have “devastating consequences,” both for countries’ economies and food security.
In Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic, there are about 300,000 hectares planted with bananas and plantains.
In Costa Rica, 1% of the national territory is cultivated with bananas (about 45,000 hectares), and exports are registered for one billion dollars each year.