Bananas are some of the most popular fruits available, and over 100 million tons are produced worldwide. Although there are over 1,000 different types of banana, almost all of them are only able to be consumed locally, as they can’t handle the process of being exported to other countries. This is why banana growers have had to rely on one specific type of banana.
Today, that variety is the Cavendish. But before the 1960s, another banana type was prominent. The Gros Michel variety was sold almost exclusively, but has since nearly disappeared entirely.
That’s because a decades-long spread of fungus known as the Panama Disease wiped out the variety, causing producers to switch to the Cavendish variety. But now another strain of fungus threatens the Cavendish, and because the market is so much larger today there simply is no easy replacement.
Thankfully, the fungus hasn’t spread to Latin America reports Flavio Maluf. But it’s shown up in Australia, parts of Africa, China, and the Philippines. Steps are being taken to avoid spreading it, but the fear is that these efforts may only slow the disease.
Still, there is some hope. According to the director of the Banana Exporters’ Association in Ecuador, “If we carry out these controls at a regional level, then it will be very difficult for it to spread… Not impossible, because nothing is impossible in life, but very difficult.”