JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands will be training coconut growers and officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in the detection of the red palm mite, which was discovered in the Morant Bay area of St. Thomas in April. In addition, coconut nurseries in the parishes of St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas, St. Mary and Portland will be checked for the pest, while sampling procedures and surveys will be developed.
The Agriculture Ministry will also be conducting research into the effectiveness of the natural enemies of the pest, the Amblyseius sp., and the in-vitro screening of environmentally friendly chemicals against the mite.
Currently an assessment of the Golden Sun spray oil, which is said to destroy the pest, is being conducted. Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, addressing a press briefing held at his Hope Gardens offices in Kingston recently, said that the pest was identified by the Plant Protection Unit from a sample of coconut leaves submitted by the Coconut Industry Board.
“A field visit by the Plant Protection Unit to an area in Morant Bay, St. Thomas revealed that the pest was present on over 700 acres of coconut trees,” he explained, noting that independent confirmation and identification of the pest was also done by the Caribbean Biosystematics Network in Trinidad (CARINET) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
He informed that unlike the pink hibiscus mealy bug, which affects some 300 types of plants, the red palm mite is concentrated to plants such as bananas and coconuts.
With the discovery of the pest, the Agriculture Minister said that sea coconuts, which is exported to Florida by the Coconut Industry Board, will now be fumigated before entry into United States, which is a requirement by the USDA.
In addition, he revealed that craft items made from coconut palms and banana leaves are banned from entering the United States. “Tourists, who come on cruise ships can enjoy the craft items, but they have to destroy them before entering the United States,” he informed.
He explained that the country must now be on heightened awareness about what is being imported, and importers must adhere to the guidelines as set out by the Ministry.

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