Panama Disease looks set to dominate the agenda at the VI International Banana Congress, which takes place in Miami this week.
Organised by Corbana and Acorbat, the conference brings together more than 1,000 delegates from 34 countries who will hear industry experts discuss the latest developments in the fight against the most deadly strain yet of the disease, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which is spreading rapidly through South East Asia and other parts of the world.
Over the course of three days, scientists will outline some of the advances made in breeding, genetics, diagnostics, soil management and technology, while analysts will provide an overview of the global banana trade and international market trends.
The biennial congress is being held outside of Costa Rica for the first time to minimise the risk of introducing TR4 to Latin America, which has so far remained clear of the disease
Following a minute’s silence for the victims of last week’s earthquake in Ecuador, Corbana’s general manager Jorge Sauma opened proceedings by explaining that the decision to hold a joint event for the first time ever highlighted the seriousness of the risk posed by TR4 on global supply. He welcomed the opportunity to exchange information and develop joint strategies to minimise the spread of the disease and protect the hundreds of thousands of families who depend on the banana industry for their livelihood.
“We hope that in the coming days we can discuss and develop the tools that will help us continue in our never ending battle towards sustainable production,” Sauma told delegates.
Acorbat president Gabriel Elejalde pointed out that diseases like TR4 and Black Sigatoka were having a huge impact on production costs and urged those present to do all they could to come up with practical international and local solutions to help raise productivity and improve competitiveness.
It was not all doom and gloom and Corbana’s president Eduardo Gómez was keen to stress that the future was full of opportunity as well as risk. He pointed to the huge advances in technology and science seen over the past 20 years and called on government, academia and private companies to invest even more in research and development.
This message was reinforced by Costa Rica’s agriculture minister Felipe Arauz, who said the solution to the challenges posed by disease and climate change lay first and foremost in knowledge, and secondly in international cooperation. “Knowledge must not be confined by borders – there is no point in acquiring it unless it is shared,” he told delegates, adding that holding a joint conference sent a clear signal that collaboration was the key to overcoming the present challenges faced by the sector.