Scientists have expressed fears that a new banana virus may affect the country in the next three years.
The latest research by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO-Mak) has revealed that the virus which was first reported in Arua district is likely to affect West Nile region.
Presenting the study findings at Golden Trip hotel during a meeting on plant pest surveillance, notification and emergency response in Uganda Jerome Kabiriba a Makerere University researcher from the NARO said “The virus forms small bunches out of the banana clusters which stops the crop from producing a bunch,”
The country according to Kabiriba is likely to lose $1.5b (approximately sh5.4trillion) because banana farming generates money in the hands of many people who sell and depend on the food for their income.
The commissioner for crop inspection and certification at the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) Paul Mwambu
The disease known as banana bunchy affects the banana bunches by entering the plant and stopping it from forming bunches.
Banana bunchy top disease is the most serious virus disease of bananas worldwide. Diseased plants rarely produce fruit and when they do, the fruit is stunted and twisted. However, in the rare scenario that the diseased plant does produce fruit that reaches maturity, it is edible
Kabiriba also revealed that last month, cases of the disease were reported in Kasese district in the Mpondwe. He raised fears that the disease might spread to neighbouring districts of Kamwenge and Kitagwenda if not controlled. Mpondwe is in the Rwenzori Mountains in Kasese District, the town is at the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
How is it spread
According to experts, the disease is spread by transporting of banana suckers, bananas and other products from banana plantations. Kabiriba said the virus could have been spread from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) entering into Arua.
“If the virus reaches the main banana growing areas of Buganda and Ankole we will be heavily affected, he revealed,’’ he said
As a ministry, we are going to put up surveillance systems to monitor the spread of the pest since they affect our regional markets.
“We need to manage these pests before they go too far so we are going to send our surveillance teams to go on ground,” Mwambu said
In Malawi three years ago the disease affected banana plantation which lead to losses that forced farmers into maize growing. In some parts of Asia, the diseases also affected the banana plantations in 2020 destroying most of the plantations of farmers. Cases of banana bacterial wilt at its peak were reported in early 2000.
The State Minister of Agriculture and Animal Industries Fred Bwino , in his speech read for him by the commissioner for crop inspection and certification at the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) Paul Mwambu said, “As a ministry, we are going to put up surveillance systems to monitor the spread of the pest since they affect our regional markets.
We need to manage these pests before they go too far so we are going to send our surveillance teams to go on the ground,”
He called for a need to collaborate and support regional efforts toward emerging pests and diseases.
“Without Timely response to emerging pests and diseases the agro-industrialization agenda will negatively be affected as key sectors like Coffee, Maize, Banana, and diary, are threatened by emerging and endemic pests. Regional collaboration is also key,’’ he said
Uganda imports plants and plant products worth over $479m (about sh1.7 trillion) and exports more than $660m (approximately sh2.4 trillion) to different markets globally.
Symptom severity will vary from one banana variety to another. Dark green streaks on petioles and midribs called morse codes. Dark green streaks on the underside of the leaves Chlorotic leaf margins
Severe stunting with short and narrow leaves leading to a rosette-like or bunchy and choked appearance No bunches or bunches fail to fill up.