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Eliminating leaf spot in St. Vincent is not going to be easy

Eliminating leaf spot in St. Vincent is not going to be easy

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Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel says that the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines “is indeed committed to the rehabilitation and production of bananas.”{{more}}

Addressing the media on Wednesday, November 23, at the Ministry of Agriculture conference room, Daniel said that his ministry is aware of the challenges the industry faces.

“Right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines we had Hurricane Tomas that caused tremendous set back over a year ago, and coupled with that was the Black Sigatoka disease, and this no doubt has created a lot of problems here…” Daniel noted.

The Minister told the media that the government is not daunted and will continue to give full support to the farmers of this country.

… “Recently, due to actions taken in terms of the control of the leaf spot disease where some 18 per cent of the fruit was cut back, the farmers benefited from an assistance program of EC$2.5 million,” the agriculture minister added.

According to Daniel, it is important to note that the leaf spot spraying program continues, and there is one final cycle which will be completed at the end of this year, starting December 26.

It was also disclosed by Daniel that EC$3.5 million has been earmarked for the leaf spot control for 2012 and funding has already been identified in the budget for 2012.

“Having done that, the Ministry of Agriculture has already made applications to the tenders board to ensure that we have the go ahead to have all the expenditures in early 2012, so that there will be no hiccup whatsoever…” he said.

“It is not going to be easy to eliminate the leaf spot diseases out of St. Vincent. We can control the level of infestation, and so the banana unit will work with the farmers to ensure that banana farmers maintain at least nine healthy leaves at all times.

“It is important to let the general public know what is happening because as you will very well remember a few weeks ago some farmers picketed the Ministry of Agriculture for ensuring that we have certain levels of compensation, because the ministry did not act swiftly to assist in the leaf spot control” Daniel stated.

The agriculture minister, howeve, advised that farmers also need to do their part because the cultural practices required for good banana production “must be done at the field level.”

Also addressing the media, Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson disclosed that a comprehensive approach was being taken towards ensuring the sustainability of the country’s banana industry.

He revealed that the comprehensive program entails five components. The first component focuses on effective management of the Black Sigatoka disease. The second is a comprehensive fruit quality improvement which looks at revised legislations that complement the programs on fruit quality control. The third component is directed at enhancing production and productivity, where approximately one hundred sucker plants will be imported. The fourth will be focusing on ensuring that by the first half of 2012, all banana farmers are certified.

“This means that we will be able to meet the international standards,” the Chief Agricultural Officer noted.

Component five is a public awareness education and training.

According to Robertson, “This component focuses primarily rebuilding the competence and the confidence of the farmers for effective banana production.”

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