Robertson happy with Moko fight
October 26, 2007

Robertson happy with Moko fight

The Chief Agricultural Officer says that his ministry needs to speed up the replanting process, but he is satisfied with the way the fight against Moko has been going.{{more}}

“The process for replanting has however not yet started, we are a bit behind on that, and need to speed it up,” Acting Chief Agricultural Officer, Reuben Robertson told SEARCHLIGHT.

Some EC$2.4 million has been spent thus far in the fight against the deadly Moko disease that has been attacking the banana industry.

Since Moko was identified as being in St Vincent five months ago, the Ministry of Agriculture has been on an aggressive campaign to control the effect that it would have on the already weakened banana industry.

“We have things pretty much in control,” Robertson said.

He however said that they cannot let up in the fight, seeing that the Moko bacteria remains in the soil for up to 18 months after the infected crops are destroyed.

“We have to do a good job now of maintaining the new plants that are to be planted, keeping them from infection, and we will seek help from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to do so,” Robertson said.

He confirmed that experts from the FAO will be coming to work along with local experts, and one key task would be to do a Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping of the infected areas.

Some 200 acres of farmland have been affected by Moko thus far, which has put a serious financial dent in the industry.

Robertson reiterated the government’s gratefulness to the Taiwanese Government for the EC$4 million they have contributed to the cause.

The Moko eradication exercise has been divided into three phases; eradication, compensation to farmers, and the replanting exercise.

Robertson said that all the infected plants have been destroyed, and farmers are being compensated on a regular basis.

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture hopes to have the banana industry back to full strength, barring no other unforeseen circumstances, two years from the May 2007 diagnosis of Moko’s presence.

He said that 30,000 of the 100,000 tissue culture plants of the Jaffer variety from Israel have arrived. Meanwhile 35,000 of the local variety should be ready for planting by December.

“Once we make sure that the bio safety measures are in order, we should be in good stead,” Robertson said.