14 June, 2021

No More Bananas On Your Breakfast Table?

A fungal infection with no sure cure is ravaging the world’s bananas. And it’s sweeping through India.

Plantation in Barabanki
Photograph by Suresh Pandey
No More Bananas On Your Breakfast Table?

On NH27, the two-lane span of highway from Lucknow to Barabanki is thick with unruly trucks making their way thr­ough the smog into what is ess­entially sweet country. ­Sugar mills and fields of cane regularly dot the passing landscape. Also at hand is a less sweet cousin, filling plantations that sprawl for acre after acre in eye-popping green. Banana, that rich source of potassium and phallic wit, is one of the major crops of this area—as it is in Bihar and Maharashtra, and a lot of south India. The jovial fruit is, however, attracting more than ­humour these days.

The news, in fact, is a little grave—and is not being much talked about officially so as not to cause a scare. Along with the commercially viable banana varieties from the West, India seems to have imp­orted a debilitating fungal infection. It’s ruining not just the crop, but the soil its­elf. And the farmers don’t know that yet.

Mineet Mishra, a 28-year-old farmer, has about an acre where he predominantly grows the Grand Nain strain, source of the...

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