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Costa Rica on high alert to prevent entry of banana pest

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | March 29, 2019
The Costa Rican phytosanitary authorities are determined to avoid the introduction of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense Tropical Race 4, which is not present in the American continent and which represents a high risk for the cultivation of bananas and other hosts.
banana pest
LatAm   The State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) seized kilos of fresh banana leaves
The State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) seized kilos of fresh banana leaves in the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, as well as handicrafts made with banana materials in Puerto Caldera. The interceptions were made in the first months of this year.

The confiscation of fresh leaves was carried out in the month of March to passengers coming in a flight from Canada. The leaves were found in a normal baggage after the SFE staff X-rayed it and inspected it. The fresh banana leaves were found in packages with a brand that stated that they were from Thailand.

Meanwhile, the handicrafts were confiscated in two different containers, one in February and one in January, according to SFE officials.

According to experts, the Fusarium R4T (Fusarium wilt) is devastating, as it destroys complete plantations and the fungus' spores remain active for decades in the soil.

To date, there is no known control strategy and, according to estimates, if it entered the Central American region it would have a great economic and social impact. The plague is registered in Southeast Asia.

Costa Rica recently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it updated the phytosanitary measures of mandatory compliance for the importation of regulated articles that could carry the disease, such as plants for planting, fresh and dried parts of the Musaceae family, soil, and organic growth media.

The SFE is part of the Technical Commission for the Prevention and Combat of Pests and Diseases of the Musaceae, and it has teams that work to protect the production of musaceae and the banana industry in Costa Rica before the threat of Fusarium R4T.

In addition, it coordinates with the Regional International Organization for Agricultural Health (Oirsa) that has a regional program for the prevention of quarantine pests, which has developed a contingency plan for an outbreak of the plague in the region.

According to data from Corbana, in 2017 Costa Rica had 42,857 hectares of banana production and the sector generated foreign currency (FOB value in dollars) for 1,042,870,310, and 100,000 direct jobs. The country also had 10,000 hectares of plantain and 700 hectares of dates.