At least 60,000 hectares of banana plantations in Ntungamo District have been attacked by a deadly disease.
Fruit peel disease, which affects banana fruit, changing its colour from green to brown, was first reported in Rweikiniro Sub-county in January.
However, it has since spread to sub-counties of Ntungamo, Nyakyera, Rwentobo and Rukoni East, and three divisions of Ntungamo Municipality.
Mr Fred Tumusiime, a farmer in Ibanga Village, Ntungamo Sub-county, said all the bananas in his 12-hectare plantation have been affected by the disease.
“I have been selling at least 800 bananas every two weeks. But ever since we were affected by the infection, buyers have become few. When they find the bananas infected, they give you low pay or they just leave. It is hurting. In some parts of my plantation, Banana Bacterial Wilt has re-emerged,” Mr Tumusiime revealed last week.
He added that agricultural experts are advising farmers to cut down the affected plants.
The district agriculture officer, Ms Esther Atwine, said because the disease is new, it has been difficult to control its spread. She added that the disease is threatening food security and income of the residents.
Mr Moses Sabiiti, an agriculture extension officer at Nyarutuntu Sub-county, said the disease is posing a big challenge to banana growing and that there are no proven measures to contain and eradicate it.
“However, now that we know the name of the disease and the parasite, we hope to contain it,” Mr Sabiiti said in an interview.
Prof Steven Magume Rwabukwire, a crop scientist at Makerere University, said the disease is transmitted by insects called thrips.
“The problem is caused by thrips (slender black insect pests) that make bruises on the fruits and secondary fungal diseases (come in and cause observed brown symptoms,” he said.
Prof Magume added that infection normally takes place during the wet season and may go away when the dry season begins.
Prof Mugume said when a fruit is affected, the disease does not allow the fingers to grow big.