Africa

Published 10:01 AM ET, Wed October 14, 2015
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The supermarket variety of the banana fruit, the Cavendish, is currently threatened by a disease know as "Tropical Race 4." Sandra Mu/Getty Images/file
Panama disease caused by Tropical Race 4 (TR4) in northern Mozambique. The picture, taken in January 2015, shows a banana farm planted with the Cavendish variety. courtesy joao augusto
The disease attacks the vascular tissue of the banana plant, impairing its ability to draw water and nutrients from the soil. courtesy iita
So far, the disease in Africa seems to be contained to just two banana plantations in Mozambique, one of which is pictured here. courtesy iita
The illness is a relative of the "Panama disease," which wiped out the plantations of bananas in the 1960s, and prompted the industry to move to a different cultivar. Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Africa is a growing exporter of bananas, with about 15 percent of the market. But many Africans depend on the fruit and get up to 90 percent of their calories from local banana varieties. CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
A South Sudanese market trader sits in his shop where he sells imported bananas from Uganda. Another disease, called "BXW," has nearly destroyed Uganda's banana industry about a decade ago. AFP/Getty Images
An Ivorian woman works at a bananas plantation in Bonne, 100 km north of Abidjan. AFP/Getty Images
Particularly important to Africa is the East African Highland Banana (EAHB), a staple food for 80 million people. Uganda alone has about 120 varieties of this type of banana. AFP/Getty Images
India is the world's leading producer of bananas, and has hundreds of local varieties. AFP/Getty Images
"Tropical Race 4" has already spread from Asia to Australia, where the diffusion of the fungus has been slow but steady, despite the precautions put in place by local growers. AFP/Getty Images