Costa Rica Blames Temperatures, Rain Patterns For Banana Emergency

Costa Rica is in the grip of a national banana emergency.

Bananas are an important part of the country’s agricultural business, which makes the pest problem such a big deal. In fact, the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services recently declared a national emergency for Costa Rica’s most important export.

According to The Tico Times, folks who make their living growing bananas are presently squaring off against legions of “mealybugs and scale insects” that are effectively destroying their crops. Since the pesky invaders cause unsightly blemishes to appear on bananas, some importers might turn their noses up at the goods.

To combat the problem, farmers in Costa Rica are presently permitted to wrap their bananas in plastics coated in pesticides. However, experts are also looking for biological solutions to the growing problem. Officials want to use other bugs to help eradicate the insects that are essentially decreasing production.

What’s to blame for the increase of banana-destroying insects? SFE Director Magda González told the publication that recent changes to rain patterns and temperatures were allowing the bugs to reproduce throughout the region at an alarming rate.

“I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests,” she added.

The Costa Rican Times reports that the country exported a whopping $594 million worth of bananas between January of October of this year. Since Costa Rica’s economy relies so heavily on the export of these goods, it’s easy to understand why officials are presently worried about the insect problem plaguing crops.

Experts believe that these Boisduval scales and banana mealybugs have infiltrated “24,000 hectares of plantations” across Costa Rica’s Atlantic region. As a result, the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services believes farmers and the economy could face serious harm if steps aren’t taken to fix the issue very soon.

“The biggest risk that we face is that importing countries impose restrictions, including the return of shipments or market closure, bringing serious consequences and reducing the country’s commercial credibility,” González explained in a recent press release.

SFE Regional Operations Department head Elizabeth Ramirez added, “Previously, special permits were provided for the importation of a certain amount of bags, but the situation continues to worsen, which is why it was decided to resort to a state of emergency.”

It’s currently unknown how much of an effect the bugs will have on the country’s banana output. For the time being, officials throughout Costa Rica continue to search for solutions to the problem that could put their agricultural future at serious risk.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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