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Concern Over Spread of Banana Wilt Disease

Experts are sounding a warning over a disease attacking bananas that could spread across the region over the next decade causing economic damage estimated at a staggering $25 billion. Almost 40 percent of this cost will be borne by consumers.

Researchers say inaction in controlling the devastating Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), currently considered endemic in East and Central Africa, could cause a staggering 55 percent reduction in banana production in newly affected regions within 10 years.

Sub-Sahara Africa produces approximately 50 million tonnes of bananas each year, accounting for about one-third of global production and covering more than seven million hectares of land.

BXW is the most widespread banana bacterial disease in Africa. It has been recognised as one of the four most significant emerging infectious diseases affecting crop plants in developing countries.

The researchers from the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture are calling on policymakers to help contain BXW. They highlight successful approaches used to manage a similar bacterial disease in a new paper in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, such as garden tool sterilisation, early male bud removal and uprooting diseased mats.

Uganda and Rwanda are cited as proactive examples of countries that have effectively implemented control strategies against BXW.

According to Athanasios Petsakos, an agricultural economist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the first author of the paper, even a limited policy response can help reduce infections and mitigate some of the production, economic and food security consequences of the disease.

Source: The East African



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