Plant health scientists meeting in Arusha, Tanzania have said that the spread of two diseases affecting banana crops is threatening food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
The bunchy top viral disease, which results in all the plant’s leaves sprouting from the top of the plant and stunts growth, has been found in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania and is “well established” in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Republic, northern Angola and central Malawi, according to a statement e-mailed by representatives at the meeting today.
The disease is spread by insects and there are no known resistant varieties of the plant, according to the Global Invasive Species Database.
Bananas are the primary food source for 30 million people in the region, according to the statement.
Bacterial wilt disease, which kills off trees and makes their fruit inedible, has affected crops in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, western Kenya, North Western Tanzania, North and South Kivu in Congo, according to the statement. Scientists fear the disease is poised to gain entry into Burundi, it said.
Uganda, Africa’s leading producer and consumer of bananas, has been battling with bacterial wilt since 2001 loses between $70 million and $200 million to the disease every year, said Jerome Kubiriba, a banana expert at the country’s National Agricultural Research Organization.