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Bananas resist economic crisis

More global action needed to curb diseases affecting bananas

Photo: ©FAO/0.Argenti
High on nourishment: bananas are favourite fruit all over the world
7 December 2009, Rome – Bananas are expected to resist the impact of the global financial crisis more than other agricultural commodities, FAO said in a report.  

The UN agency predicts banana imports to decline slightly to 13.8 million tonnes in 2009, about 3.3% less than 2007. Banana imports by the European Union, the US and other developed countries fell by 4.1%, 5.5% and 3.2% respectively.  

Developing countries on the other hand will continue to register an increase in demand for the fruit, with imports predicted to rise 2.5% to 2.33 million tonnes, driven largely by China.  If the recession bottoms out by the end of 2009, then the demand for bananas will increase by up to 7.8% and tropical fruits by about 2% in 2010, FAO said.  

The main reason the demand in bananas is expected to resist the recession is because the fruit is deemed by consumers to be a necessity and is therefore less sensitive to changes in income and price. In addition, the share of household income that is expended on fruit purchases is small.  

Upward trend
 

“With steady growth in populations and income, and rising awareness about the positive nutritional value of fruit, global banana and tropical fruit consumption is likely to continue its upward trend in the next few decades” the FAO report said. 

The combined trade in banana and tropical fruit now accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global fruit market. The FAO report, which also examines how the banana market fared in earlier economic recessions, is to be presented to international banana and tropical fruit experts and policy makers.

They will meet at the Joint Meeting of the Fourth Session of the Sub-Group on Bananas and Fifth Session of the Sub-Group on Tropical Fruit in Rome from 9 – 11 December 2009.  

Disease wipes off $4 billion
 

In a separate report to be delivered to the meeting, FAO is calling for more resources to go towards creating a global map of banana and plantain diseases, warning that the cumulative production damage caused by disease could mount to over $4 billion by 2010, impacting primarily on the incomes of smallholders.

 Banana Bunchy Top Disease and Banana Bacterial Wilt threaten the food security of 70 million people in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on bananas for their livelihood and food supply.

Two other diseases, Black Leaf Streak and Fusarium Wilt are also spreading.  

“All four diseases...merit far greater investment in public awareness, basic and applied research and farmer training and production services to growers,” said FAO in its report.

However, limited resources to address multiple problems have been the major constraint.