The tragedy of the Irish potato famine provides a cautionary tale for the banana industry. Over-dependence on monocrop production systems is again putting a food crop – one that is a key staple for food security in millions of households around the world – at risk. Last week, the Sunday Times took a look at the story of the banana in light of fresh produce shortages on Britain’s supermarket shelves and asked, could the banana be next?
In the case of the Cavendish banana – the only banana variety to be exported globally and enjoyed at scale in Northern Countries – there is a double-bind: not only are the production systems typically wiping out local biodiversity through implementing large-scale mono-crop systems and with significant agrochemical inputs, but the banana itself is grown from cuttings, rather than seed, meaning there is no genetic diversity within the variety either. Banana Link’s International Coordinator, Alistair Smith, contributed to the piece: “It is the Irish potato famine phenomenon all over again. You could potentially get global wipeout, as there’s no diversity to stop the disease taking hold” he commented. To ensure the Cavendish banana doesn’t meet the same grisly fate as it’s predecessor, the ‘Big Mike’ (Gros Michel) variety which was enjoyed until the 1950s, before it was wiped-out completely by disease, investment is needed. “Supermarkets need to start investing with their suppliers to look at alternative varieties and alternative ways of producing on a commercial scale before it’s too late.” Smith stated.
To read the article in full, please visit the Sunday Times website.