The local citrus industry has received some much-needed assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to tackle citrus greening disease, which has been severely impacting the island over the past two years.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton and FAO representative for Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize, Dr. Jerome Thomas, this morning (November 16) signed a US$480,000 agreement to provide an array of technical support to the industry.
Speaking at the signing, which was held at the Ministry’s Hope Garden’s premises in Kingston, Dr. Tufton said the presence of the citrus greening disease was threatening the livelihood of those linked to the industry.
Even before the discovery of the disease in the island two years ago, citrus production had dropped from 140 tonnes in 2003 to 122,000 in 2008, which the Minister blamed on a range of factors including the citrus tristeza virus, adverse weather conditions, less than optimal management, aging farmers and declining acreages.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (centre) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative for Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize, Dr. Jerome Thomas, sign the US$480,000 agreement, which will see the FAO providing an array of technical support to the citrus industry to fight the devastating citrus greening disease. Observing the signing is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry.
“We appealed to the FAO and they responded and have agreed on an 18-month programme, focusing on diagnostic detection, collaboration, training and upgrading, facilitation, and the production of disease-free materials for nurseries in order to expand the production of citrus plants, and do so in a way that is resistance to the citrus greening challenge that we face,” the Minister outlined.
The programme activities will involve mobilising citrus stakeholders, working with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Citrus Growers Association, to facilitate field visits; provision of laboratory space to facilitate training; provision of site nurseries and technicians and research assistance; coordination of training events; and administrative support. Biological support programmes will also be examined, including monitoring.
“For us, these resources are very well-timed,” Minister Tufton said, expressing gratitude and support to the FAO.
He said the citrus industry is extremely valuable to the country in terms of earnings and employment.
“It has an estimated value of some $4 billion. Over 95 per cent of total citrus production is utilised locally for the fresh fruit market or in processing, while approximately four or five per cent is exported. On farm employment is estimated at about 6,000 persons.overall directly and indirectly, you’re looking at about 19,000 or close to 20,000 jobs,” he pointed out.
Technical Director at the Citrus Growers Association, Percy Miller, told JIS News that his organisation welcomed the funds, and expressed the desire for the benefits to impact the industry in an expedient manner.
He said that the citrus greening diseases, is fairly new to Jamaica, and that the pattern is being examined.
“We see where, for example, limes are the most affected. For the past two years since we have noticed the disease, what we are noticing is that the species most impacted is limes.but we really haven’t yet got the complete picture,” he noted.