Cavendish fungus outbreak set to drive banana prices in New Zealand

  • 27/10/2023

Bananas will likely soon become more expensive than usual in New Zealand due to the world's most consumed variety being ravaged by a fungal disease. 

The Cavendish, which is not commonly grown in New Zealand but makes up 99 percent of the country's imports, is under threat of extinction due to the disease. 

Known as Panama Disease tropical race 4, the fungal infection begins by ravaging the roots of the tree before spreading - disabling its ability to absorb water or conduct photosynthesis, resulting in the tree's death.   

Tropical Fruit Growers of New Zealand chair Hugh Rose, a banana grower, told AM the virus could wipe out entire Cavendish plantations. 

"Unfortunately, with Cavendish, they're all identical copies and when they plant out a monoculture, you get one virus in [and] it kills everything," Rose told host Ryan Bridge. 

The disease was "absolutely devastating", he added. 

That's why growers are urged to plant a variety of crops and not "put all your eggs in one basket", he said. 

It was "reasonable" to expect the price of bananas would go up because of the disease, Rose continued. 

"Currently, homegrown bananas in Melbourne, Australia can easily be paying $12 a kg - [up from] usually around about the $5 or $6 a kg but... prices can go much higher." 

Photo credit: Getty Images

New Zealand needed to plant more of its own bananas, he said. 

"Basically, we just need a few farmers to plant bananas up in the areas that they grow well in and, also, for people to get used to a thinner-skinned, much tastier banana than the Cavendish." 

Watch the full video for more.