Kenya takes action to prevent Fusarium TR4

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Kenya takes action to prevent Fusarium TR4

The banana industry in Kenya is taking early action to prevent the spread of Fusarium TR4, a soil-borne fungus that can devastate the crop, The Star reports

The fungus affects many varieties including Cavendish bananas, which provide around half of the global banana supply and almost all of the bananas exported. Once the fungus enters a plantation, it can result in complete yield loss.

The country's Agriculture Principal Secretary Paul Rono spoke at the International Plant Protection Convention simulation exercise on Fusarium TR4 at Kephis headquarters, warning of the importance of taking measures early. 

"Cross-boundary transfer of pests and diseases, disruptive human activities, and climate change have devastating impacts on agriculture, biodiversity, and international trade," he said. 

Kenya's tropical climate makes it particularly vulnerable to pests, a problem Rono says is exacerbated by climate change. 

“Limited funding for research and phytosanitary controls, inadequate human resources, and porous borders increase Kenya's vulnerability to new pests and diseases. These challenges hinder the regulatory capacities needed to ensure food security and safety,” Rono said.

Related article: Costa Rica: Banana industry works to stay free of Tropical Fusarium Race 4

Since this fungus can spread in various ways, and has already been detected in several producing countries, taking preventive measures is essential. This is especially relevant considering that TR4 has been detected in the Comoro Islands and Mozambique.

Hamisi Williams, deputy representative of FAO Kenya said that due to the biological nature of the fungus and its reproductive structures, eradicating Fusarium TR4 is not technically feasible.

Additionally, Theophilus Mutui, Managing Director of Kephis, said globalization and trade liberalization increase the risk of pest introduction.

Kenya is already grappling with banana pests and would be severely impacted if Fusarium TR4 were introduced.

"This is why we take this simulation activity very seriously. The lessons we learn will be applied to other pests of concern as advised by existing pest forecasting mechanisms,” he added.

Mutui stressed the importance of phytosanitary measures (actions taken to control plant diseases, especially in crops) to protect Kenya's economy and food security.

"The banana crop is extensively cultivated as a staple food and income-generating activity by many local communities," Mutui said.

The training aims to enhance existing regulatory control systems, including testing banana planting material for Fusarium TR4 before importation and monitoring it in quarantine status.

Through these proactive measures, Kenya aims to safeguard its banana industry from the devastating impacts of Fusarium TR4, ensuring the continued production and trade of this vital crop.


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