Disease plagues tropical banana stock.
by the New Yorker:
More than a thousand kinds of banana can be found worldwide, but a variety called Cavendish, which a nineteenth-century British explorer happened upon in a household garden in southern China, represents ninety-nine per cent of the banana export market. Although Cavendishes need pampering, they are the only variety that provides farmers with a high yield of palatable fruit that can endure overseas trips without ripening too quickly or bruising too easily.
In 2008, Americans ate 7.6 billion pounds of Cavendish bananas, virtually all of them imported from Latin America. Several years ago, Borsato noticed a couple of sick-looking plants on a neighbor’s property. When the plants were cut open, they smelled like garbage, and their roots were so anemic that the plants could barely stay upright. Borsato feared that he was seeing the symptoms of a pestilence that had wiped out the Cavendish across Asia: Tropical Race Four, a soil-borne fungus that is known to be harmful only to bananas.
Tropical Race Four appeared in Taiwan in the late eighties, and destroyed roughly seventy per cent of the island’s Cavendish plantations. In Indonesia, more than twelve thousand acres of export bananas were abandoned; in Malaysia, a local newspaper branded the disease “the H.I.V. of banana plantations.” When the fungus reached China and the Philippines, the effect was equally ruinous. Australia was next. Scientists believe that Tropical Race Four, which has caused tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage, will ultimately find its way to Central America—and to the fruit that Americans buy.
This is scary. Will this cause the prices of bananas to skyrocket (say $1.25 a lb)?
This has happened in the past but with increasing pesticide use, a tolerance formed and now history begins to repeat itself.