In the wake of calls from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to banana-producing countries to step up monitoring, reporting and prevention of the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) disease of bananas, also known as, Fusarium wilt, Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is moving ahead to monitor the situation and increase knowledge and awareness about the disease.
The disease is currently not in Jamaica and in a bid to ensure that it is not introduced into the country, the Ministry is appealing to all Jamaicans to “Help us keep it out!”, stressing that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure and that early detection is key.
To date, and in response to the FAO appeal, the Plant Health Coordinating Committee, which includes the Ministry’s Plant Quarantine Branch, Research and Development Division and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), in collaboration with the Banana Board, has begun preparation for an early response to a potential introduction of TR4 to Jamaica. The measures include:
1. Declaration of the TR4 as one of the top five priority pests of quarantine significance to Jamaica.
2. Preparation of technical data sheet by the Pest Risk Analysis Unit of the Ministry to provide information for surveillance teams and officers. The Banana Board has also developed a brochure, which is distributed to farmers to assist in early detection and quick response.
3. Holding of a sensitization session with the Pest Emergency Response Team to train them on the disease.
4. As part of the Strategy for Early Detection and Response, the Pest Risk Analysis Unit has developed a draft Order for the disease to effect immediate response once the disease is detected and confirmed in Jamaica.
5. The Plant Quarantine Branch has prohibited the importation of banana and plantain (plant and parts) from countries where the disease is reported, under the Plants Quarantine Act 1993 and this is monitored by the Plant Quarantine Branch. Importation from all other countries is also restricted. The Branch has also suspended the imports of alternative host material such as Heliconia, pending a scientific review of possible pathways for entry of the pest into Jamaica.
7. Work has also begun on the development of an Emergency Action Plan to coordinate the prompt response of the Pest Emergency Response team in the event of the pest incursion and
8. The Banana Board continues to conduct routine surveillance for early detection of the disease.
Going forward, the authorities are urging that:
• No banana, plantain or Helicona plant or plant part is imported or smuggled into the country.
• Persons, including agricultural professionals and consultants, visiting agricultural fields in other countries properly sanitize their clothing and shoes before returning to Jamaica.
• Overseas farm workers and returning residents ensure that they obtain import permits for the importation of all plant and plant parts.
• Earth-moving vehicles and used cars be properly sanitized and certified for entry into Jamaica.
• Any suspicion of the disease be reported immediately to the Plant Quarantine Branch at 977-6401/977-0693/977-7160 or the Banana Board at 922-2083 or 3837235
According to reports from the FAO, the TR4 banana disease, which recently spread from Asia to Africa and the Middle East, also has the potential to affect countries in Latin America and ultimately the Caribbean and Jamaica would be at risk.
The TR4 race of the disease, which was previously known as Panama disease, is one of the world’s most destructive banana diseases and can seriously affect production and export of the world’s most traded fruit.
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