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JIS News

With the recent emergence of Citrus Greening disease, the Plant Quarantine Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture is imploring the public to observe proper procedures when bringing plants, fruits, vegetables and cut flowers into the country.
Vegetation and fruits are potential carriers of harmful pests and diseases, some of which can decimate the agricultural industry, cause deforestation and result in the loss of jobs and incomes for thousands of persons. Once found, the produce should be confiscated.
Speaking with JIS News, Senior Plant Quarantine Officer in the Ministry, Fitzroy White noted that the vegetation that is most frequently confiscated included, herbs and spices, vegetables, plants, cut flowers, ground provisions and miscellaneous items such as coconuts. When confiscated, these items are burnt.
Mr. White explained that there were regulations to follow and permits to be obtained, before importing the items into the country. In some cases, the returning residents or visitors who bring such items with them are coming from a country with known and documented outbreaks of plant pests and diseases. In addition, he informed, they lacked the permit to carry certain flora into Jamaica.
“Any agricultural item being imported into Jamaica must be accompanied by a valid import permit issued by the Plant Quarantine Unit,” emphasizedMr. White. The citrus disease is caused by a “bacterial infection which is transmitted primarily by insect vectors named citrus psyllids. This infection is usually found in the seeds, graftings, fruits, branches, roots and leaves of citrus,” Mr. White pointed out.
In August, the Unit had issued a warning about another disease called Citrus Canker that was also ravaging Florida and which could devastate Jamaica. The public is again advised that “no citrus plants, budwood, seeds, fruits or any citrus plant parts are to be brought into the country,” insisted Mr. White Citrus is a major industry in Jamaica, cultivated on thousands of acres, the export of which brings in revenue of US$10 million per year. It is also very lucrative on the local market, in terms of consumption of the fruits, juices and by-products.
Since the start of the year, approximately 1,644 kilograms (kg) of fruit have been confiscated while 592 kg of vegetables and 176 bunches of cut flowers have been seized. In the herbs and spices category 5,220 kg have been taken away while 368 plants and 20 ground provisions have been confiscated. Items such as grass, seeds and tobacco accounted for 28 kg.
There is rarely a problem with commercial importers of goods, because the products are coming from controlled and monitored farms. However, the Plant Quarantine Unit is reporting that it is the souvenir collector and small gardeners who attempt to hide prohibited items. These persons may obtain permission once the Unit is consulted beforehand.
The Plant Quarantine Unit is designed to facilitate the livelihood of farmers and the viability of farms, which range in size from one to 6,000 acres.
Persons are advised to contact the Plant Quarantine Unit in matters relating to importing agricultural items, especially exotic plants and fruits, as well as culinary herbs and soft fruits as fines and penalties could be introduced shortly.
Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that affects the phloem system of citrus plants causing the infected trees to yellow, decline, and possibly die within a few years. Citrus greening has seriously affected citrus production in Asia, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula, and was reported in July 2004 in S