CHIANG RAI – Officials from the Department of Agriculture have been dispatched to a Banana plantation in Chiang Rai province after a report of an alleged outbreak of Panama disease.
The 2000 Rai plantation is operated by a Chinese company and is located in the Phaya Mengrai district of Chiang Rai Province.
Officials from the Department of Agriculture told Thai media that they cannot yet confirm whether it is Panama disease, and that the disease has never occurred in Thailand before.
The official said that that the Chinese company allegedly imported cuttings illegally to be planted in Chiang Rai,” adding that the alleged disease is presently limited to this one plantation in Chiang Rai.
She said Bio Chemists have taken samples from the infected banana plants for testing and the analysis will be completed within a week and that officials are destroying the infected banana trees in a bid to contain the disease.
Witoon Lianchamroon, head of Biothai, a conservation group on sustainable agriculture warned that one of the first recorded outbreaks of Panama disease in the 1950s nearly wiped out the Gros Michel variety of banana.
Witoon said that the disease is very severe and cannot be treated because a chemical does not exist, the only way to stop it is to change the species.
Panama disease, or Fusarium wilt, is a devastating disease of banana and caused havoc in banana plantations in Central America where it killed hundreds of thousands of hectares of the “Gros Michel” banana.
The disease evolved in one of the worst botanical epidemics of all time in Central America.
This is not the first time the Phaya Mengrai district banana plantation came under controversy in 2016 a conflict arose with local residents over environmental concerns. The Chinese firm pumped water out of the Ing River to its 2,750 rai (440 hectares) of banana plantations at the expense of downstream farmlands.
Locals lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission alleging that the plantation — a joint investment between Thai and Chinese company was illegally discharging chemicals into public waterways.
By Geoff Thomas