The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries on October 17, 2012 officially launched the ‘Don’t Pack a Pest’ public awareness initiative at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and at the Falmouth Cruise Ship Pier in Trelawny.
The programme is a collaborative effort between Jamaica and the United States, through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant Industry, and the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service (USDA-APHIS).
It is designed to sensitize passengers of the risks of introducing diseases into Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region, and the United States.
Speaking at the Falmouth launch, State Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Ian Hayles, said with all the pests that are adversely affecting the agricultural sector in Jamaica, the programme “is important in protecting the local industry.”
He noted that through the sensitization programme, the aim is to reduce the introduction of pests into the country and the costs associated with addressing the problem.
“There are diseases and there are pests that affecting us and the farmers everyday, and the long-term cost will be billions… so we are creating that level of awareness, in saying to people; ‘Don’t Pack a Pest, and ensure that we can grow the agricultural sector. If we can sensitize a nation in protecting our borders, and other borders across the world, we would have done our job,” Mr. Hayles stated.
Thousands of pounds of uncertified or prohibited agricultural produce are confiscated at ports of entry from passengers on a daily basis. These uncertified items pose a serious treat to the country’s food and fiber resources as exotic invasive pests can enter through this pathway and become established.
Bringing uncertified items into the country can result in loss of export markets due to quarantines and can negatively impact the natural environment. With increased travel, there is an urgent need to expand outreach programmes to educate the traveling public about what they should know and what they can do to help protect the agricultural and natural resources from exotic pests.
The public awareness initiative dubbed: ‘When you Travel, Don’t Pack a Pest, Declare Agricultural Items’, will help travelers know ahead of time what they can and cannot take in their baggage, so as to avoid possible fines as well as having the items confiscated.
The focus of the agricultural protection programme in Florida and Jamaica is appropriate as both countries are high risk areas that are vulnerable to new pest introductions through trade and tourism.