JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and other relevant stakeholders are on high alert and have taken swift action to implement preventive initiatives to safeguard the Jamaican banana and plantain industry against the Tropical Race 4 Disease (TR4).
  • This was disclosed by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, in a statement to the House of Representatives on October 8.
  • The Tropical Race 4 disease is considered one of the 10 most notable diseases in the history of agriculture, and is the most destructive disease to have affected bananas, plantains and the Heliconia plant.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and other relevant stakeholders are on high alert and have taken swift action to implement preventive initiatives to safeguard the Jamaican banana and plantain industry against the Tropical Race 4 Disease (TR4).

This was disclosed by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, in a statement to the House of Representatives on October 8.

The Tropical Race 4 disease is considered one of the 10 most notable diseases in the history of agriculture, and is the most destructive disease to have affected bananas, plantains and the Heliconia plant.

The disease was first identified in Asia in 1964. It spread to the African continent and to the Middle East in 2013.

“It must be noted that this deadly disease of banana and plantain crops is not present in Jamaica. The Jamaica banana and plantain Industry is, therefore, on high alert to keep it out of the island,” Mr. Shaw said.

“What has heightened our response is the fact that this disease has now been reported in the western hemisphere for the first time, and on August 8, 2019, it was confirmed in the La Guahira region of Colombia, where over 150,000 hectares of banana and plantain have been destroyed in an effort to contain it,” he added.

Mr. Shaw informed that the fungus spreads through infected plant materials and infested soil particles attached to any item such as farm tools, shoes, clothes, animals and vehicles.

He pointed out that this means that visitors to the island, and even residents when they travel, can bring this fungus into Jamaica.

“As such, I am urging all visitors and residents to adhere to the guidelines as established by the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Branch of the Ministry,” the Minister said.

Among the measures being implemented to prevent the introduction of the disease is the provision of disinfection mats at the international airports and cruise-ship piers for travellers to disinfect their shoes before entering Jamaica.

“The Banana Board has already established a diagnostic laboratory to conduct early identification of the disease, so that we are able to respond swiftly should this disease reach our shores,” Mr. Shaw said.

He noted that in January of this year, the Plant Quarantine Branch, in collaboration with the Trade Board, implemented a new policy for used-car dealers to ensure that vehicles are cleaned, pre-inspected and certified free from soil before entering Jamaica.

Also, the banana and plantain-producing nations of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), including Jamaica, are accelerating the agreed Action Plan for the prevention of the disease in the respective territories.

Mr. Shaw said the most recent regional meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean’s Agricultural Authorities and Phytosanitary Experts on August 5, 2019, resulted in the ‘Regional Declaration of the Agricultural Authorities on TR4’.

He informed that Jamaica is a signatory to these declarations and is acting in accordance with the action plans, adding that a national task force is being established to develop and monitor the implementation of strategies aimed at preventing the introduction of the deadly disease into the island.

“I wish to assure you and the country that we are taking all the possible precautionary measures to safeguard our banana and plantain industry from this deadly disease,” Mr. Shaw said.

“I implore all our farmers and consumers to follow the guidelines laid out as we seek to protect this industry. Protecting our banana and plantain industry from the threat of this deadly disease is everybody’s business… . The Ministry will also embark on an active public awareness programme to engage the nation in preventing its entry into the island,” he added.

Mr. Shaw said the Government has prohibited the importation of banana, plantain and any relatives of the banana family into Jamaica.

A 2019 study and a review of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) database in December 2018 show that there are 68,612 farmers operating in the Jamaica banana and plantain industry, occupying approximately 20,822.53 hectares.

Banana and plantain are the cheapest starch or staple eaten in various forms by 98 per cent of the population.

Over the past three years, the value of the Jamaica banana and plantain industry has been increasing, moving from an estimated annual value of production output at farm gate prices of $6.04 billion in 2015 to $7.4 billion in 2018.

Additionally, banana production for 2018 increased by 22 per cent over 2015, moving from 54,410 metric tonnes to 66,381 metric tonnes. Further, 694 metric tonnes were exported in 2018, compared to 318 metric tonnes in 2015, a 118 per cent increase.