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Ministry officials in T&T to observe inspection of produce

Ministry officials in T&T to observe inspection of produce


When agricultural produce shipped from St Vincent and the Grenadines arrives in Port of Spain, Trinidad, today, two Vincentian agricultural officers will be there to observe as the goods are inspected.{{more}}

The presence of the senior agricultural officials in Trinidad follows the rejection by the Trinidad authorities of several hundred boxes of bananas and plantains over the past three weeks, because of the presence among the fruit of the pink mealy bug.

Chief agricultural officer Leslie Grant told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that head of Plant Protection and Quarantine Marcus Richards is in Trinidad to verify that the mealy bug is actually being found in the produce.

“If they actually find mealy, then we would deal with the problem. But our thing is, we need to know exactly what…we have to see what is entering and to have face-to-face dialogue with the person who is doing inspection,” Grant said.

Richards is expected to be joined in Trinidad today by agricultural officer Michael Delpesche.

Last Friday, 1,317 boxes of banana and plantain, valued at over $30,000, were sent back to St Vincent from Trinidad. The fruit had been exported by 10 different traffickers.

The previous week, 877 boxes were rejected. Some bananas exported on April 14 also suffered the same fate.

Grant told SEARCHLIGHT that this problem with bananas and plantains follows swiftly on challenges on the Trinidad market with root crops.

“We are just coming out from another problem. Officials in Trinidad were very concerned about root crops; now we have to deal with bananas. With the root crops, they were concerned about the soil and the presentation. So, we simply have to follow instructions. Our standards are lower than what is going in from the other islands. St Lucia sends them in by containers… We will tighten up our end, but at the same time, we have to lift the game,” the chief agricultural officer said.

Grant, however, made it clear that most of shipment of agricultural produce from St Vincent passed inspection in Trinidad last week. Only some boxes of bananas and plantains were sent back, he said.

Grant said in addition to the agricultural officers’ visit to Trinidad, the Ministry of Agriculture is taking several other specific steps to minimize the possibility of fruit infested with mealy bug being exported.

He pleaded with exporters to follow the instructions of the agriculture department pertaining to washing and cleaning produce. He said ministry officials are going out into the field to advise packers on the how best to prepare the produce for export and to see that instructions are being followed.

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority has also been asked to tighten security to ensure that only goods that have been inspected are shipped.

The ministry has also increased the sample size of the goods they inspect from 10 to 15 per cent of the shipment.

This, however, has its downside, the chief said.

“Everytime you inspect a box of bananas, the quality deteriorates.

“We are issuing individual phyto [sanitary certificates]. Even if a single importer is receiving goods from several exporters, each exporter would be required to get a phytosanitary certificate,” he said.

Additionally, more mealy bug predators, the biological control agent, are being released into the environment by the ministry.