JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture is reporting that a Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug (PHMB) Order 2007 has been gazetted and is now in effect for the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew and Portland. The order declares the bug to be a plant pest and if infestation is suspected, this must be reported to the relevant authorities.
“This order binds all owners, occupiers or persons having charge of land who know or suspect the existence of the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug to notify the Chief Plant Quarantine Officer, the Parish Manager for the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) or the Principal Research Director of the Bodles Agricultural Research Station,” explained Chief Plant Quarantine Produce Inspector, Sheila Harvey in an interview with JIS News.
Mrs. Harvey further noted that the order gives the right to officials of the Ministry and its agencies to access any property to detect, control, remove or destroy any plant or plant parts that have been affected by the pest.
Additionally, it gives permission to the ministry to produce the natural predators of the pest and prohibits their destruction, whether by spraying or otherwise. While acknowledging that the ministry cannot totally eliminate the pest from the island, she explained that its population can be significantly controlled.
“We will not be able to eliminate it,” she reiterated, adding that “we will be able to control its population; therefore the order will be in effect for a long time,” she continued.
Commenting on the penalties for breaches of the order, the Inspector revealed that a judge would use his or her discretion when imposing fines or penalties.
In the meantime, she is urging all individuals to refrain from moving any plant or plant parts from areas that have been affected by the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug.
“No person should move any plant material from the infected areas without the permission of the Chief Plant Quarantine Officer. that is moving any fruit, flower, plant cuttings or seedlings,” she pointed out. If the outbreak becomes widespread, this will have implications, not only for the island’s agricultural sector, but will affect trade with other countries as they can levy a ban on all produce coming from the island. As such, she maintained that all guidelines relating to control of the pest must be obeyed. “We just ask that you abide by the instructions given to you by the plant quarantine officers or the research and development officers as to the movement, care and disposal of plant and plant parts that are taken from affected gardens,” Mrs. Harvey said.
The Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug was first detected in the Commodore, Islington, Fair Prospect and Windsor Forest communities of Portland in July 2007. Following its detection, the Ministry of Agriculture, through its support groups, imported one year’s supply of the parasitoid wasps, the natural predators of the insect.
Since their importation, some 58,000 of the insects have been released into the affected areas and reports from the ministry are that the pest population has been dramatically reduced and the communities are being restored to normalcy.
Additionally, several measures were implemented, including the implementation of a Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug hotline to report suspected cases of infestation, the training of officers at RADA in the detection of the pest and controlling the ant population in the affected areas. However, despite the ministry’s efforts to contain the pest, it has been transferred to the parish of St. Andrew. On December 14, 2007, a low infestation of the pest was found in the residential area of Queensbury, St. Andrew. Surveys of the community indicated that the infestation is confined to four streets in that community, with low infestation reported in the residential community off Perkins Boulevard. This recent infestation is believed to be due to the movement of infested plant material from Portland into the area.

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