Columbia has declared a national emergency after a fungus that destroys bananas was discovered in its soil.
Officials found the Fusarium type 4 (TR4) organism, which has also hit crops in Asia, across nearly 180 hectares in the northeastern province of La Guajira.
The find has sparked fears of a world-wide shortage as Latin America contains four of the top five banana producers for the export market.
The Columbian Agricultural Institute (ICA) said it has already eradicated plants across the affected area, and will increase sanitary control measures at all ports, airports and border points.
ICA’s general manager, Deyanira Barrero Leon, added that the police and military had been drafted in to help tackle the spread, alongside experts from Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico.
“We are responding with everything we’ve got,” she said.
Surveillance flights and on-the-ground inspections will be used, while the government will also consider funding small and medium-sized exporters to help them bolster biosecurity.
The group of affected bananas – known as Cavendish – are Columbia’s third-biggest agricultural export with sales of $866.2 million in 2018, and are particularly vulnerable due to their lack of genetic diversity.
There is no treatment for the fungus, which experts say can persist in soil for decades.