BananEx is three year, £1.2 million interdisciplinary project on the resilience of the banana supply chain led by Exeter University.
The UK is highly dependent on imported fruit and vegetables that make up eighty per cent of the market, compared with half of cereals and one sixth of meat and dairy produce. Yet, fruit and vegetables are a key component of a healthy diet, often overlooked in studies of global food security that tend to focus on the major grains.
Reliance on imports makes the UK vulnerable to instabilities in international production and supply, placing the issue of resilience of the UK food system firmly in a global context. This vulnerability is epitomized by the banana, the most popular fruit in the UK by consumption, and the most important fruit in the world by production.
Favourite Fruit Under Threat?
Though hundreds of banana varieties are grown around the world for domestic consumption, only one variety, Cavendish, is internationally traded. The previous export variety, Gros Michel, was eliminated by Panama Disease in the 1950s, and now a new virulent strain, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), is emerging from Asia to threaten the Cavendish. No alternative tradable varieties are available, and no chemical disease controls exist. If TR4 reaches Latin America and the Caribbean, supply to the US and EU will collapse.