Caribbean News

Belize taking action to deal with potentially deadly fungus

The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) says it has been holding discussions with several stakeholders in the banana industry in a bid to prevent the Fusarium Wilt of Bananas, which has been detected in neighbouring Colombia from entering the country.

BAHA said that the discussions with the stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture and partner organizations are to develop a comprehensive strategy to keep the disease out of Belize.

Fusarium Wilt of Bananas is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, and described as 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,” BAHA said in a statement.

It said 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 (One Belize dollar=US$0.49 cents) and employs thousands of labourers and provides business to several related services.”

BAHA said that its Quarantine Department 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 and that other actions will include a comprehensive surveillance programme for early detection eradication.

“BAHA is asking all travellers 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,” BAHA said in the statement.

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