JIS News

The Plant Quarantine Unit of the Agriculture Ministry has urged Jamaicans travelling overseas not to return with any citrus plants so as to eliminate the possibility of the citrus canker virus being introduced into the country.
Fitzroy White, Plant Quarantine Produce Inspector, advised that nationals arriving from abroad should “make every effort not to yield to the temptation to bring in citrus, or plant parts into the island so we can stave off this disease as long as it is humanly possible to protect our citrus industry.”
The citrus canker, a bacterium called zanthomonas axonopodis, has recently ravaged the citrus industry in Florida, with an estimated 8 to 10 million fields of the crop being destroyed in the North American state. The virus was also discovered in the Bahamas in May.
He noted that the disease was not an immediate threat to Jamaica. “It can only come here if unscrupulous individuals would bring in citrus or citrus plants unknown to the Ministry and they are coming from infected groves, and so inadvertently, causes an infection to spread.”
The Ministry of Agriculture presently does not allow for the importation of any citrus plant or parts. The Quarantine Unit, which has specific responsibility for issuing permits to import plant, parts of plants, fruits and vegetables, does not grant permits for citrus plant or fruits, Mr. White said.
As to how the citrus canker infected a plant, Mr. White explained that the disease was spread by persons moving from one infected plant to another. For example, “a tool [being] used to prune the tree or an equipment that is used to do some sanitation in the citrus grove and the equipment might come into contact with the sap of an infected tree, and if for instance, it catches another tree, it would cause the bacteria to infect the tree and it will come down with the symptoms of the citrus canker,” he explained.
He noted that Jamaican citrus farmers have been made aware of the disease and the Northern Caribbean University hosted a workshop at Bodles for the farmers following the discovery of infected citrus trees in Bahamas.
“A number of citrus farmers were informed of that meeting and they were at liberty to attend and get information as they needed,” he said, while encouraging them to utilize the Internet to conduct research on the citrus canker, and visit the Ministry’s library to further their knowledge of diseases.
Detailing the function of the Unit, he informed JIS News that, “the Plant Quarantine Unit is the section of the Ministry that ensures that produce, fruits and vegetables leaving the island are of the highest quality and free from pests and diseases.”
The Unit’s work is primarily carried out at the island’s two export complexes at the Norman Manley and Donald Sangster International Airports.

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