Task force appointed to deal with threat to banana, plantain industry

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — A National Task Force has been appointed as part of the Government's monitoring and prevention programme to safeguard against the threat of the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Disease, which could impact the banana and plantain industry.

The Task Force is to be chaired by a member of the Banana Board and include representatives from border regulatory agencies, such as the Agriculture Ministry's Plant Quarantine Division, Jamaica Customs Agency, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Marine Police and the Airports Authority of Jamaica; Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), All Island Banana Growers Association Limited, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), farmers, and other relevant stakeholders.

The announcement was made by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, at a media briefing yesterday, at the ministry's Hope Gardens address in Kingston, where he gave an update on the management of the threat of the TR4 and Frosty Pod Rot diseases.

Shaw said the ministry is on high alert and is taking the necessary precautions to implement preventive initiatives to safeguard the Jamaican banana and plantain industry against the potential threat.

“This is a deadly disease with the capacity to destroy our entire industry, and it is for that reason that through our competent authority, the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection branch, as well as the Banana Board and other stakeholders, such as other border regulatory agencies, that we are acting swiftly to do everything in our powers to prevent it from entering Jamaica,” he said.

Additionally, Shaw outlined several control measures in the ministry's action plan to prevent the disease from entering the country.

Among them is the use of tolerant and resistant varieties at the Banana Board Breeding Station at Bodles, Old Harbour, such as FHIA 01 and 25 which have shown high tolerance to TR4. These were developed by the Honduran Agricultural Research Foundation.

Other measures include the establishment of a diagnostic laboratory at the Banana Board to produce disease-free planting material.

Scientists at the Banana Board have been trained to identify the disease and carry out molecular diagnostics. They have also been trained in the management of TR4.

“We all, collectively, have a responsibility to be proactive and put in place as many preventive measures as possible,” he said, as he called on all stakeholders to play their part in mitigating the threat.

— JIS


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