Pierre Monteux, general manager of UGPBAN, was present at the Solveg booth at Fruit Attraction and agreed to talk about the situation facing the French banana sector. Under heavy pressure from cercosporiosis, responsible for a drop in yields, the bananas of Guadeloupe and Martinique could find salvation thanks to new breeding techniques, better known as NGT (New Genomic Techniques).

Black cercosporiosis is the number 1 threat for banana producers and it is present in virtually all tropical banana-growing areas. It appeared in Guadeloupe and Martinique in 2010.

Towards varieties resistant to Black Cercosporiosis?
“Overall, the situation is complex at the moment in terms of production,” explains Pierre Monteux. Faced with a decline in molecules and increasing pressure from black cercosporiosis (disease caused by the fungus mycosphaerella fijiensis), the French banana sector has been looking to varietal research for solutions. “This disease has an impact on yields and quality. Today, NGTs seem to be the main avenue for better days ahead, with the prospect of resistant banana plants.” It is an issue that goes far beyond the banana sector: “our future and food survival depend on it,” explains Pierre Monteux.

Field trials are currently being carried out, but “developing in-vitro plants takes time,” explains the director. “On the political front, the European Commission (which came out in favor of NGTs by proposing a relaxation of the rules via a draft submitted at the beginning of July) is still waiting, as is the European Council (also in favor). For the time being, the big unknown remains the European Parliament, particularly in view of the upcoming elections. The new plants should arrive in 2025, so we should be ready for 2030.”

Thanks to these biotechnologies, banana volumes could “return to 230,000 tons, the levels reached in the 2000s.”

Left to right: Audrey Ktourza, Pierre Monteux and Elisa Coquet.

Request for government support
“With these new in-vitro plants, fungal pressure should be lower.” The willingness to turn to this new technology is part of the shift made by growers in Guadeloupe and Martinique towards agroecology “some fifteen years ago.” It was for this reason that, at the end of September, representatives of the sector met with the French Ministry of Agriculture to “raise awareness about the difficulties faced by growers and to request government support.” So far, the government has provided few answers, but “dialogue has begun and a roadmap has been drawn up.”

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