Bananas will become unavailable in the UK unless action is taken to prevent the spread of a disease that has affected crops worldwide, trade unions and producers have warned.

The emergence of True Race 4 (TR4), a new strain of so-called ‘Panama Disease’, has spread across Asia and is on the rise in Africa and Australia. It is a soil fungus that kills bananas grown for the international market.

It has yet to arrive in Latin America, but no barrier to its spread there has yet been identified.

In order to save the banana from potential extinction, unions and farmers are calling for change to production methods.

Speaking from the World Banana Forum in Geneva on Wednesday, Bert Schouwenburg, GMB international officer said: “Our sister trade unions tell us that producers are desperate to prevent ‘Fusarium RT4’ disease spreading to Latin America from other parts of the world.

“However, unless there is a fundamental shift in production methods, away from exploitative, environmentally destructive plantation mono-culture, it is only a matter of time before the disease takes hold with devastating consequences for exports to Britain and Europe.

“The system for the production and trade of dessert bananas is little more than a house of cards built on the shaky foundations of monoculture and genetic uniformity. This house of cards threatens to collapse at any moment.

“Producers, retailers and unions must take advantage of the Forum to map out a sustainable future for the banana.”

A separate poll by Barclays found that 62% of 2,000 UK consumers said they feared exotic fruits would become more difficult to purchase after Brexit.