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Fusarium Wilt of Bananas – Belize’s Banana Industry at Risk

Stakeholders of the banana industry, government agencies, agricultural partner organizations and the public are hereby informed of a notification of a suspected detection of Fusarium Wilt of Bananas in La Guajira Province in Colombia.

Fusarium Wilt of Bananas, caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Tropical Race 4), is a devastating disease of bananas. Once infected, the plants die rapidly and the disease spreads quickly within farms and then throughout an industry. It originated in South East Asia in the early 1960s and is now prevalent in that region causing devastation to banana plantations. The disease has been detected as well in Mozambique, Jordan, Israel and Australia.

With the current suspected case in Colombia, the threat of this disease is now closer to Belize and therefore raises the risk level. The banana industry in Belize represents one of the major agricultural pillars of the economy and stands to lose significantly if this disease is accidentally introduced. The value of the industry currently stands at approximately 75 million Belize Dollars and employs thousands of laborers and provides business to several related services.

The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA), the Ministry of Agriculture and partner organizations have met with stakeholders in the banana industry and are discussing a comprehensive strategy to keep the disease out of Belize. The Quarantine Department of BAHA has initiated actions at the Philip Goldson International Airport through the placement of shoe disinfection mats for visitors potentially coming from countries where the disease is present. Other actions will include a comprehensive surveillance program for early detection eradication.

BAHA is asking all travelers to avoid visiting farms during their travels abroad and to inform the Quarantine Department at the points of entry into Belize if they did so. Likewise avoid bringing into the country any banana or heliconia planting material as well as articles made of banana paper or any other plant tissue. Please assist BAHA in safeguarding Belize’s agricultural patrimony.

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