Disease wipes out banana plantations in Balik Pulau

GEORGE TOWN - Bananas sold in Penang now come from neighbouring Perak, Kedah and Thailand after the Moko disease devastated plantations in Balik Pulau.

The disease, which was detected last November, has laid waste to the entire 336ha of banana plantations in the district, and is spreading to the mainland.

"Even banana trees in the kampung backyards have wilted. Farmers told me their mainland counterparts have also detected the disease," said Muhamad Farid Saad.

The Pulau Betong assemblyman has written to the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry, urging for immediate action to contain the spread of the disease.

"There is no cure and the bacteria can survive in the soil for over 18 months. It spreads easily via insects, farming equipment, vehicle tyres that pick up infected soil and the distribution of contaminated fruits," he added.

"The Penang Agricultural DepartĀ­ment funded the destruction of dead banana trees in 12ha of plantations so far but the effort was futile," Muhamad Farid said.

"The bacteria will persist unless all the infected plantations are sanitised," he said.

Described as deadly and devastating by agricultural authorities in Australia and Jamaica, Moko disease had caused severe losses in banana crops in central and south America, the Caribbean and the Philippines.

Besides bananas, 50 plant families have been described as hosts of the bacteria, including nightshade vegetable crops, ginger, custard apple (nona), peanut, eucalyptus and a variety of weeds.