March 24, 2005
Agriculture workers to tackle fruit fly

STRATEGIES to combat the pesky West Indian Fruit Fly will soon be put into action here.

This, after agricultural workers from some five Caribbean countries participated in a “Regional Integrated Pest Management Programme” held at the Sunset Shores Hotel on Monday.{{more}}

The sessions, which ran from March 21-23rd, were funded by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and also had participants from Inter-American Institute for Co-operation and Agriculture (IICA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

At the opening ceremony, FAO Regional Plant Protection Officer Dr. Gene Pollard gave a brief history of where the Fruit Fly was first detected and how it spread from one island to another, causing destruction to agriculture. He noted that it was first seen in Barbados in 2001, then in Grenada in 2002 and St.Vincent and the Grenadines later in that same year.

Dr.Pollard said that when the Fruit Fly was discovered, it also brought extensive economic loss. He pointed out that from 1996-2002 Grenada exported 18 tonnes of fruit (except melons) amounting to 7-hundred thousand U.S. dollars. While in that same period, St.Vincent exported 3hundred tonnes valuing $1-hundred and 25 thousand U.S dollars.

The regional FAO representative noted that this is why the monitoring, surveillance and tracking of the Fruit Fly were crucial to the eradication of the pest.

Meanwhile Argicultral Minister Girlyn Miguel, noted that in 1986 after extensive surveillance, no fruit flies were detected. She stressed that this “Fruit Fly Free” status was maintained until it was discovered on the Grenadine isle of Bequia in 2003. Miguel said that in 2004, one year later, the pest was discovered in Layou on mainland St.Vincent,.

She noted that the fly may have spread from Grenada up to Bequia and then to St.Vincent because of trafficking. She noted that her department was mobilised to that site to remove fruits from infected properties and this may be one of the reasons why this country has not been as harshly hit by the Fruit Fly.

The Agriculture Minister said although there has not been total eradication of the pest, there has been an efficient management programme that allows Vincentians and visitors to enjoy Fruit Fly free produce. Minister Miguel also expressed confidence that this country will again return to a Fruit Fly Free status and said this can only be done through continued partnership with regional and international organisations .

As she addressed the gathering she said, “The Ministry believes that there is power in partnership with organisations like FAO, IECA, USDA and the public.” Again expressing appreciation she said, “Thanks to the public, this demonstrates that no matter how difficult the task, we can tackle the situation successfully when we work together.”

Minister Miguel also encouraged the participants to take advantage of the programme by increasing their knowledge of the Fruit Fly so that they can do more for their respective countries.