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SVG gets more funds to fight Black Sigatoka

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This country is expected to receive a further EC$300,000 for the fight against the Black Sigatoka disease.{{more}}

The additional funds will come from the sub-regional banana exporter WINFRESH, to assist with the spraying of banana fields by the banana plane and ground crews.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Allan Alexander announced on Wednesday, September 22, that $11 million had been budgeted for the spraying of the fields, which would have been done in six to seven cycles.

He however noted that a number of technical difficulties, which included maintenance work and certification of the spray plane, as well as the wait for spraying chemicals, hindered the plans.

“We had to be on a waiting list for these chemicals because the Latin Americans, who are severely affected by the Black Sigatoka, currently have to do approximately 30 cycles per year. This obviously meant that they would be given first preference,” said Alexander.

“We were hoping at least by this time of the year we would have gone through about four cycles, but that is not the case, and plans are in place that as soon as the Certificate of Air Worthiness (for the spray plane) is completed, that the plane will be back in the sky,” he disclosed.

Alexander said that because of the setbacks, along with the aggressive nature of the Black Sigatoka, efforts would have to be intensified to control the spread of the disease.

He said, to this end, his ministry was approached by the WINFA Fair Trade organization to work along with them in the fight against the Black Sigatoka.

“Fair Trade obviously realizing the importance of collaborating with us on this issue of national importance, and one which directly impacts their organization, saw the need to contribute to this exercise and informed us that they would be making some monies available to the tune of $300,000” said Alexander.

He said this will be used to help procure some extra chemical required for the additional spraying that is now necessary.

The Permanent Secretary commended the organization for stepping forward to assist, noting that a majority of farmers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are Fair Trade farmers.

He refuted statements made by an individual, that chemicals and parts for mist blowers were being purchased by Fair Trade.

“This ministry had paid for spare parts for the mist blowers, and we are currently awaiting these parts, which are taking long since the suppliers have to get them directly from the manufacturers. We will be getting these spare parts (and new mist blowers) hopefully by the end of next week.”

He said the Ministry of Agriculture and responsible stakeholders in the industry are taking the disease very seriously. Alexander said that they have seen the importance of collaborating and will continue to collaborate for the betterment of the industry and the country.

“We are confident that once we continue to work together in this manner we can control the spread of the Black Sigatoka Disease,” Alexander said.

Black Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease of banana plants caused by a fungus.

Plants with leaves damaged by the disease may have up to 50 per cent lower yield of fruit. (JJ)