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Fri May 22, 2020, 02:56 PM

Disease Is Ravaging the $25 Billion Banana Industry

In the banana plantations of the tropical lowlands of Ecuador, workers are being issued with protective clothing and disinfectant is provided for their tools.

The safety precautions implemented in the farms that stretch between the Andes and the Pacific coast are not simply to guard against the coronavirus. They’re a foretaste of what will be required to shield the valuable crop against another disease, one that poses an existential threat to a $25 billion industry.

Bananas have a claim to be the modern world’s first globalized product and are still the most exported fruit on the planet. Yet the trade that began some 130 years ago is now a potent symbol of the underlying fragility of globalization. How it adapts and responds may suggest a path toward rebuilding international consensus in the post-pandemic era.

The fiber and vitamin-rich fruit is such an everyday item that it’s easy to overlook the environmental, social and political issues inherent in where they come from, and the economic reality of what it takes to get them to supermarket shelves. Grown in the south and shipped to markets in the north, much of the supply chain put in place in the 19th century is still in use today.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/disease-is-ravaging-the-dollar25-billion-banana-industry/ar-BB14rtMt?li=BBnbfcN

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:03 PM

1. In other words, expect to pay more for bananas?

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:06 PM

2. I believe this has happened before.

The banana industry has recognized that they may have to switch to a different strain again. They've done it in the past, thought this disease might affect all strains.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:09 PM

3. The biggest problem with the common banana is that growers have made it a monoculture...

150 years ago there were many varieties of banana, and I believe if you look in backyard gardens in the tropics today, there still are.

But a single nationwide or worldwide variety is always vulnerable to being wiped out by disease due to lack of genetic diversity.

Take American honeybees...

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Response to Hekate (Reply #3)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:47 PM

7. People understandably like *seedless* bananas

Never having encountered a banana that does have seeds, I don't know exactly what that would be like, but it sounds nasty.

When there are no seeds the only way to make more seedless fruit is to clone the mutants that don't have seeds.

The only way I can think of to have both genetic diversity and seedlessness would be to maintain small breeding crops of seed-bearing bananas which are otherwise an appealing variety of banana apart from their seeds, then periodically re-introduce seedlessness via GMO techniques into the offspring of the breeder bananas.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #7)

Fri May 22, 2020, 06:16 PM

9. Banana seeds are very small. You won't notice them in your mouth, you will see them.

They tend to be very soft, so biting into one is no issue. They have an amount of amalgam around them, sort of like tomato seeds, but it tastes almost identical to the banana flesh.

I remember seeded bananas from when I was a child, I loved bananas then, I can't stand eating them now. The old bananas were far superior in flavor and smell.

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #9)

Sat May 23, 2020, 04:17 AM

12. Yes. Like apples and tomatoes, the taste has been nearly bred out of them so they can travel well.nt

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #9)

Sat May 23, 2020, 09:50 AM

15. Actually they are not.

I grow some wild Musa species in my plant collection and banana seeds are the size of a BB and just as hard. Gros Michel is somewhat fertile and that was the source of the "seeds" you may remember since it would very infrequently produce a few seeds. Wild bananas are mostly seed with a bit of flesh around them - they taste good though. Cavendish is sterile and unfortunately cannot be used as a breeding parent for new varieties.

The two major issues with trialing new banana cultivars is the public is not accepting of bananas that are not yellow and not all cultivars can survive shipping. Either the bunches are too fragile or they ripen too fast. If you search for FHIA bananas, you can read up on some of the varieties that are being trialed for potential replacement of the Cavendish - a couple of them such as FHIA-23 and FHIA-17 have Gros Michel as a parent and if you live where you can grow bananas in your backyard (zone 9+), many of the FHIA bananas are obtainable in the states.

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Response to pm_me_grey_paint (Reply #15)

Sat May 23, 2020, 06:45 PM

16. I could be that what I remembered were vestigial seeds, but they were prominent.

I don't remember the seeds being hard. But I know that I don't see them today in bananas.

I remember bananas in the supermarket when my mom shopped, the section with them were so fragrant, as were the other fruit, going into the fruit section was a treat. Bananas then were great with any meal and as a snack, they were full of flavor. Today's bananas never give off much of the "banana" smell until they start to over-ripe, then they get an acrid taste that I hate. I seriously doubt if I eat 6 bananas a year now, when I try to eat one, it sits around in my stomach for what seems like hours, I don't like that feeling.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:11 PM

4. That's the problem with growing clones.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:17 PM

5. That's a bunch of bananas.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:25 PM

6. This has been a long time coming. I hope GMO bananas come along in time to solve the problem.

There's some working being done on this already from what I've heard, but I'm sure anti-GMO stupidity is slowing it down.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 03:51 PM

8. Gros Michel was replaced by Cavendish . . . 40 years ago? 45?

Now Cavendish is beginning to fail and they're not sure what's next.

It's not so much that there won't be any more bananas, since there are many varieties. It's that they're worried that there won't be a banana variety that can be stored, be shipped over long distances and tick all the other exporter/consumer boxes that we're accustomed to.

Bananas may be on the verge of being rapidly "relocalized".

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Response to hatrack (Reply #8)

Fri May 22, 2020, 06:28 PM

10. If not "relocalized", at least develop some geographical diversity.

Why not grow more bananas in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti? It seems those climates would be ideal places.

Canada may beat us to a better banana. That country grows tomatoes and several varieties of hot and sweet peppers year round now, excellent fruit too. I wouldn't be surprised to see them doing fruit like bananas and oranges at some point, since both trees are fairly small.

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #10)

Sat May 23, 2020, 04:40 AM

13. Florida

Has the right climate to grow bananas...

We're already fighting imported tropical fruit crop dumping on the US market.

As a Florida grower I urge you to examine the shelf or label for country of origin

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Response to bluecollar2 (Reply #13)

Sat May 23, 2020, 06:59 PM

17. Though it still has some work to do, Publix sells Florida grown produce.

I purchased four ears of Florida grown sweet corn there yesterday. Unfortunately, the excellent sweet red peppers that I will pair with the corn are from Canada.

The cauliflower and broccoli are from California.

I don't eat a lot of tomatoes, I believe Florida was really strong there at one time, as it was for cucumbers, which I rarely eat, except occasionally as pickles.

I have developed a habit over years of looking for the country of origin, I started that years back when several waves of e-coli swept across the country, contained in produce from Central America. Even if USA produce is pricier, I buy that. One new issue is that Trump loosening farm water purity standards throws in a curveball for USA produce.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 06:58 PM

11. K and R

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Sat May 23, 2020, 04:45 AM

14. This is the last thing Ecuador needs

I've been there and worked with their government. They are bitterly poor and can't afford a huge hit to their economy like this right now, especially considering that the oil price is in the cellar as well, and that was their other big natural resource.

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