Going Bananas?

By Aliza Kempner

Your favorite snack or morning smoothie’s staple ingredient may be in danger. 

The global supply of bananas, the world’s most valuable fruit (with export figures hitting 16.5 million tons in 2012) is facing two major troubles in its cultivation. In several countries, the Cavendish, the most popular commercial variety of bananas, has been damaged by Black Sigatoka, a disease that causes blackened leaves and has shown resistance to fungicide. Moreover, a strain of Panama disease called Foc Tropical Race 4 that attacks the Cavendish may soon hit Central and South America, which produce four-fifths of banana exports. 

The Economist explores the banana industry’s historical response to similar complications, and sheds light on the race to find a banana that is both resistant to the two diseases and commercially viable.