Fyffes reassures as banana fungus puts major grower Ecuador under alert

Fyffes reassures as banana fungus puts major grower Ecuador under alert

Irish company Fyffes has reassured over an outbreak of a banana fungus in major producer Ecuador that destroys the fruit, saying that the worldwide industry is coping in fighting back against the plant disease.

It comes as the detection of a banana-killing fungus in neighbouring Colombia has set off alarm bells in Ecuador, the world’s biggest exporter of the fruit.

Growers in Ecuador, where bananas generate €2.3bn in exports and 2.5 million jobs, are battling to prevent Fusarium TR4.

Some farms are disinfecting shoes, tools, and vehicles and have set up unique access paths for workers.

Ecuador has more than 7,000 growers, many with very small plots that sometimes share water supplies, leaving areas vulnerable to infestation. The arrival of the fungus could be catastrophic, said Marianela Ubilla, vice president of the association.

While Ecuador began preventative measures even before Colombia detected the fungus earlier this month in 175 hectares near the border with Venezuela, tensions are now running higher in the region. While the fruit is safe to eat, there’s no treatment for plants, which wither and die. Hugo Hays, global director food safety and compliance at Fyffes, said that stringent biosecurity can deal with TR4.

“It has existed for several decades in Asia and they are still producing and consuming bananas there. Fyffes is collaborating with the wider banana industry to combat the spread of TR4 and keep it off our farms and our growers’ farms,” he said.

Irish Examiner and Bloomberg staff

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