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The Coconut Industry Board, in its response to the lethal yellowing disease, will offer some 60,000 seedlings per year over the next three years for replanting to qualified farmers as well as a weed control grant.
State Minister for Agriculture, Errol Ennis, in his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 22, explained that the programme covered the coconut growing areas of St. Thomas, St. Ann, St. Mary, and Portland and “we are trying new areas such as St. Elizabeth and Hanover to see if the disease is location specific”.
Mr. Ennis told the House, that coconut had suffered a reduction in output as a result of Hurricane Ivan, with production last year standing at 97 million nuts when compared with the country’s highest output of some 172 million nuts. He said that apart from the effects of disease, the industry faced challenges such as the loss of older trees, fertilizer and proper agronomic practices.
Major coconut producing areas now have to be replanted. “We have continued to export coconut seeds to the United States, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. We see some trends developing where there is an interest in replanting”, he said.
Mr. Ennis further informed that the Coconut Board had received approval to become the agency for the implementation of the lethal yellowing research programme, with the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) contributing US$2.5 million to the effort and the government also making a donation.
Meanwhile, cherry production for coffee up to May 2005 was in the region of 240,000 boxes, which is an estimated 48 per cent of what was expected. Lowland coffee is also down 90,000 boxes, Mr. Ennis noted, explaining that the coffee quality had declined due to bean size.
“The level of agronomic attention has declined and we have not been getting the response in terms of the quality expected. At the same time, while the impact of Ivan is taking effect, the market demand has also tripled and there is significant pressure on us to keep and maintain the market that we have,” he pointed out.
Mr. Ennis further told the House, that the Ministry would do everything in its power to protect the interest of coffee farmers in the event of any legal difficulties they may experience recovering claims.
He noted that a number of producers were insured with Dyoll, which was in liquidation, and the company’s legal position “may very well compromise the ability of the farmers to receive their insurance claims”. The Ministry is still in negotiations with the insurer.