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Frosty pod rot seminars well attended by cocoa farmers — Agriculture ministry

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Facilitators of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries' Frosty Pod Rot sensitisation sessions targeting cocoa farmers in St Mary say the forums have been well supported by the beneficiaries.

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Representative in Jamaica, Dr Elizabeth Johnson, told JIS News that farmers in Bellfield, Brainard, Lewisburgh, Anglican, Marlborough, and Woodside, where sessions were held, were very receptive of the engagements.

“The farmers are interested (and) want to learn more. They are asking questions, which is a good sign of their interest and involvement in treating of the disease,” she noted.

Dr Johnson explained that the sessions were designed to inform the farmers on how to manage Frosty Pod Rot in order to prevent it spreading.

She pointed out that sensitisation is pivotal to achieving this, adding that it is imperative that the farmers are on board to consolidate the role they play in strengthening the cocoa industry.

Dr Johnson said the turnout of the farmers for the sessions has been encouraging and urge others to make the effort to access the information.

Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Donavan Stanberry, noted that several changes have been made in the approach to treating with frosty Pod Rot, including the disease's management, which has been revamped since the onset has escalated.

“We have taken out the management of the Frosty Pod Rot from the… Cocoa Board and have put it under the direct management of the Ministry under the Plant Quarantine Division, which is the unit responsible for safeguarding the country in terms of disease status,” he outlined.

Stanberry further said that the disease's management is being supervised by a technical team, noting that with the farmers' cooperation, the sessions' outcomes will be positive.

The permanent secretary also indicated that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has made a “generous” allocation in the 2018/19 Estimates of Expenditure, which underline the seriousness of the Frosty Pod Rot, “and our resolve to control it”.

For his part, cocoa farmer, Clarence Russell of Woodside, St Mary, said the help from the ministry is appreciated.

“The response has been good. Since January, more people in the communities know about the disease, and they are asking questions about how they can treat (with it). I sometimes train the farmers… so I am happy to see this involvement from the ministry,” he shared.

Noting that the farmers are asking more questions, Russell contended that sensitisation will be key in helping them to understand the extent of the resulting fallout if the disease is not controlled and spreads.

Against this background, he said the sessions “give us all the necessary steps we need to fight the disease.”

“We are learning how to identify the disease, how to prune the trees, how to prevent higglers from transporting it to other farms and even learning how to get rid of the bad cocoa pods,” Russell told JIS News.

Additionally, he said consequent on the ministry's intervention, farmers' efforts and activities will be renewed and they will be encouraged to apply best practices on their cocoa farms to save the cocoa industry.

Identifier and Entomologist at the Plant Quarantine Produce Inspection Branch, Karen Christie, told JIS News that the ministry has provided a step-by-step guide for farmers to follow.

She said the branch will work with farmers to manage the infestation, pointing out that continuous monitoring of fields is critical in controlling and eradicating the disease.

For further information, farmers may contact the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) toll free number at 888-275-7232; the ministry's Research and Development Division at Bodles, St Catherine, 754-2957; the Cocoa Industry Board, 923-6413; or the Plant Quarantine Protection Unit, 588-5844.

Farmers are also being encouraged to use the WhatsApp number 435-5828 to send pictures where it is suspected that the disease has infected a crop or farm.

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