LatAm countries form united front against TR4 - 'Diseases know no borders'

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LatAm countries form united front against TR4 - 'Diseases know no borders'

Latin American countries have joined forces to stop the spread of the banana disease TR4, meeting on Monday in Ecuador.

The disease, Fusarium Wilt Tropical race IV, is suspected to be present in Colombia. Two farms in the north of the country have been under quarantine since June.

Colombian authorities are expecting the results of the laboratory testing in the Netherlands in the coming days. But meanwhile, countries that are normally competitors are working together to form a united front.

If TR4 were to spread throughout Latin America, it could have a drastic effect on banana exports in the future.

A Regional Meeting of Agricultural Authorities took place yesterday in Ecuador - the world's top exporting country.

The agriculture ministers of Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador all attended the event in the capital, Quito.

There were also delegations from Bolivia, Belize, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Representatives of many international agricultural organizations were also present, including the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Creating a sustainable agricultural model 

Addressing attendees, Ecuadorian Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said: "Thank you for responding to Ecuador's call."

He explained that agriculture will be at the forefront of the future of Latin American and Caribbean countries. It is therefore essential to work together to quickly combat and control pests and diseases that affect crops.

"Pests and diseases know no borders; it is important to understand that this problem is not just related to countries that grow bananas," he said. It will also serve to implement a sustainable agricultural model across these areas.

Agriculture Minister Xavier Lazo highlighted that 80% of global banana exports come from the continent, with a value of US$7bn.

He said the presence of so many ministers, vice-ministers and phytosanitary organizations demonstrates the level of interest in working together to protect the agricultural industry.

The attendees discussed measures they were taking to stop the spread of TR4, including training employees and establishing strategic alliances between countries.

Richard Salazar, executive director of Ecuadorian banana association Acrobanec, told that the continent's agricultural ministers first met five years ago to discuss the possible future entry of TR4 and how best to tackle it.

"In fact, there is a regional plan that is being implemented by Ecuador, Colombia and Central America for the exclusion plans; that is to say, how to avoid the TR4 fungus entering Latin America and the biosecurity measures to put in place [if it does enter]," he said.

"The idea is to have a common front so that exactly the same thing can be applied in all the countries," he said. Continuing to exchange information and to cooperate is crucial, he added.

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