Ministry Outlines Plan of Action for Banana Disease


In response to the presence of the deadly Moko disease in St. James, which affects mainly banana and plantain, the Ministry of Agriculture has come up with a national plan of action aimed at containing and eradicating the disease.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke today announced a number of measures which are expected to restrict the spread of the disease, at a press conference held at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens office.
The Moko disease is caused by a bacterium, ralstonia solanacearum, which enters through the roots, wounds and flowers of the affected plant. It spreads throughout the plant, blocking the flow of food and water, thus preventing proper growth. Eventually the plant will die.
Although plants might show signs of the disease, the fruits can be safely eaten, emphasised Mr. Clarke.The Minister outlined five measures in the plan of action, the first of which is the formation of a technical committee that will co-ordinate all eradication activities.
This team consists of specialists from the Banana Board Research Department and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) plant quarantine/produce inspection division; the research stations of the Ministry of Agriculture; the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS); and representatives of the banana sector.
Secondly, to keep various stakeholders and the public informed of the developments in the Moko disease action plan, the Ministry has produced a full colour information leaflet, which is being distributed to farmers islandwide. Posters will be also mounted at strategic locations across the island, and the information will be posted on the websites of the Ministry and RADA.
The third strategy is the eradication of all known and suspected fields. This will be carried out by a special team from the Ministry of Agriculture and is expected to cost approximately $4 million.
There will also be an islandwide survey to determine if the disease exists elsewhere. This will be conducted by RADA and the European Union (EU) Banana Support Programme Field Services Unit.
The fifth measure will involve the Ministry enacting a Moko Disease Order under the Plant Quarantine Act. This is aimed at protecting the livelihood of all persons involved in the industry, stressed Minister Clarke.
The regulation will stipulate that the districts of Georges Valley, Silver Grove, Vaughnsfield, Phoenix Road, Montpelier in St. James and any area within a 10 mile radius of each district are infected areas.It will require that every owner, occupier or manager of land on which the disease has been found, implement all recommendations specified by the agriculture ministry.
Additionally, no one will be allowed to move soil or plants, fruits, suckers, corms (the plant’s underground storage organ) or any other part of affected plants out of an infected area.
No replanting will be allowed within any infected area until specified by the Ministry’s chief plant quarantine officer.
Anyone who suspects the presence of the disease on his or her property must report this to the Ministry’s chief plant quarantine officer or the RADA parish manager.
Although the disease affects mainly banana and plantain, it can also affect cocoa, dasheen, tomato and castor bean, and ornamentals such as heliconia and red ginger.
The Minister stressed that the industry must be protected, as “bananas and plantains make up a substantial part of the diet of Jamaicans, and exports of these fruits are also a major source of livelihood for thousands of farmers and their families”.
Mr. Clarke urged all farmers to inspect their fields carefully each week for the symptoms.If symptoms are seen, they should mark the location and immediately contact the nearest office of the Banana Board, RADA, the JAS or the Ministry’s research stations at Bodles, St. Catherine or Montpelier, St. James.
Minister Clarke informed that the disease was first reported by RADA in late 2003 with samples of the disease collected from farms in Maroon Town, St. James.
After analysis by pathologists in the Banana Board Research Department, the disease was diagnosed in January 2004.
The Minister said efforts were currently underway to track the sources of the disease.
The disease is spread in infested plant parts and soil, as well as on tools, animals (insects, livestock, birds), persons (shoes, hands, clothing) and vehicles that come in contact with infected materials.
Approximately 9,600 hectares of banana and 5,100 hectares of plantains are grown by 85,200 farmers for both the export and domestic markets.

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