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Arrival of oil for aerial spraying of banana fields delayed

Arrival of oil for aerial spraying of banana fields delayed

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Banana farmers will have to wait another week or so before the arrival of the much needed oil required for the aerial spraying of their fields.{{more}}

Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson made this announcement to the dismay of a number of farmers present, as the farmers, agriculture officials and other stakeholders in the banana industry met for a special meeting this week to discuss the dreaded leaf spot disease Black Sigatoka and other issues plaguing the crop.

Robertson said at the meeting, which took place on Tuesday, September 20, at the Fisheries Complex in Kingstown, that the Ministry of Agriculture, standing by its commitment to farmers, will begin the spray cycle as soon as the oil arrives.

“The proposed arrival of the two containers of oils was scheduled for the 14th of September. Again because we had two storms going up into the Gulf, we had some slight delay, and now the expected arrival time is now the 26th of September; almost ten days later than anticipated.”

“All the procedures are in place; the aircraft is ready… and therefore we are now awaiting the arrival of the oil to execute this activity.”

The oil, when mixed with other fungicides, is used to help in the control of Black Sigatoka.

It has been unavailable here for some time, and its absence has led to the spread of the disease over a number of banana farms, and has caused a number of plantation cut backs and to some extent, a drop in the quantity and quality of bananas produced for regional and international export.

Acknowledging that the responsibility for disease control lies with his ministry, Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel indicated that the government has not relinquished that responsibility, by pointing out that $3 million has been allocated in the national budget for the fight against the leaf spot disease.

The Minister further informed the meeting that ‘bureaucratic bungling’ was the cause for delay in the purchase of the oil, which has left banana fields unsprayed since earlier this year.

“It was in March of this year, $1.5 million… was released to assist in leaf spot control.”

“The monies were released in March, and when the information came to the Ministry of Agriculture… I asked the Permanent Secretary to immediately have the applications made to the Ministry of Finance for the expenditures.”

Daniel said that he had enquired about the purchases in subsequent months, and was informed that the requisition for the oil had been made, only to be told later that the requisition had not been filed for more than one month.

“It happened whereby he himself (Permanent Secretary Nathaniel Williams) took the document through the system, so that we can have the funds made available for what it was required for.”

He said that at the end of July, the monies to purchase the oil were released, and an initial four to six week wait for the product turned out to be longer, due to weather conditions between the supplier and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Over the past weeks, organizations representing banana farmers have placed the blame squarely on the Ministry of Agriculture, and by extension the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Previous calls made for the financial compensation of farmers for the latest predicament were repeated at Tuesday’s meeting, but agriculture officials did not indicate if this would be forthcoming, but rather called for the gathering to find ways and means to move forward.

“It is time for us to now knock heads together to find solutions to the problems that are confronting us in a sustainable way if the banana industry is to survive,” Chief Agricultural Officer Robertson said.

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