Climate Change Threatening Costa Rica's Banana Industry

12/16/2013 1:25:43 PM

A Costa Rican agency last week issued a statement declaring a national crop emergency for bananas, one of Costa Rica's most important agricultural exports, over the proliferation of mealybugs and scale insects.

Magda González, director of the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry's State Phytosanitary Services (SFE), said Wednesday that climate change plays an important role in the countrywide infestation threatening Costa Rica's multimillion-dollar banana industry.

"Climate change, by affecting temperature, favors the conditions under which [the insects] reproduce," González said, as do changes in rain patterns. She estimated that these conditions could shorten the bugs' reproduction cycle by one-third.

Bananas. (Credit: Flickr/Katina Rogers)

SFE estimates that the pests have affected some 59,000 acres of banana fields to varying degrees.

The insects weaken the banana plant, lowering production, and can cause blemishes on the fruit that exporters might reject.

Producers will now be allowed to import and wrap banana bunches with bags laced with the pesticides buprofezin and bifenthrin. González added that pesticides are not the only solution, and that SFE offers support for farmers looking to use biological control agents -- like other bugs -- to combat the pests.

Costa Rica exported more than 1.2 million tons of fresh bananas in 2012, valued at more than $815 million (Zach Dyer, Tico Times, Dec. 11).

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

E&E Publishing is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy issues.

Click here to start a free trial to E&E's information services.

Continue Reading on >