UK & World News
Banana Trade In Costa Rica Hit By Bug Plagues
Authorities in Costa Rica have declared a "national emergency" as a double plague of insects threatens banana exports from the Central American nation.
An outbreak of mealybugs and scale insects has quickly infected swathes of banana plantations across the country, with some 24,000 hectares of banana plants reportedly infected.
Agricultural engineer Eric Bolanos said the insects extract nutrients from banana plants, leaving them weak and causing dark stains on the fruit.
"Basically, what it does is suck out the nutrients, or sap from the plant's organs, stems, leaves. It could reach the fruit, causing damage (like) dark stains," he added.
Some experts have blamed climate change, with warmer temperatures and changing rain patterns, for the explosion in the bug population.
Magda Gonzalez, from Costa Rica's Phytosanitary Service, said up to 20% of Costa Rica's banana crop could be affected.
"At the moment, the problem that we have is that the two plagues are distributed practically across the entire (agricultural) sector where there is banana. That's one thing. This started as a little point in La Estrella Valley and from there they dispersed towards other areas. At the moment, it's said that suppliers could reject 20% of the fruit," she said..
According to trade officials, Costa Rica is one of the world's largest banana exporters with more than half a billion dollars worth of the fruit crop exported abroad over 10 months.
:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.