Our Readers' Opinions
September 21, 2007

Clearing the air about Moko treatment


Editor: The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries seeks to provide information to the public on the status of implementation of the Moko Disease, Management, Control and Eradication Programme since this disease is of national importance and is of concern to all Vincentians. Rightfully so since the major crop bananas is affected.{{more}}

On the 3rd of June 2007 the programme commenced. The Cabinet in its wisdom set up a Committee consisting of a number of person and organisations included representatives from the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Banana Growers Association (SVBGA), WINFA/fair-trade and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with the Hon. Minister as Chairperson. Within the first 2 months, the Committee met weekly, subsequently, meetings were held fortnightly.

An amount of EC$4 million was obtained from the Government of Taiwan through His Excellency Jack Chen for the implementation of the Moko Disease Management Control and Eradication Programme which has 3 major components that includes:

1. The treatment protocol estimated to cost EC$490,000.
2. Compensation payments estimated at EC$1.68 million.
3. Replanting programme estimated at EC$1.83 million.

The implementation of the treatment protocol started with information provided by the staff of SVBGA and Fair-trade by way of the documents/reports that an estimated 200 acres were affected involving 102 farmers.

How the Treatment Protocols were implemented.

A total of seven (7) teams consisting of 5 persons per team were engaged in administering the chemicals. Each team was led by a team leader/manager (this person being an Officer assigned from either the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the SVBGA or WINFA/Fair-trade). Each team leader was responsible to the Senior Agricultural Officer (SAO) of Extension, stationed at Dumbarton Agricultural Station. Before the teams ventured out to administer the protocols, a list of names of farmers, the location of the infected field and contacts made with the farmer would have already been obtained by the team leader from the S.A.O. It should be noted that there were some occasions where the farmer(s) could not be contacted and hence the Officers had to do the count, which was subsequently verified.

The treatment involved, and still does, the total destruction of all fields where the disease was found to be dispersed (banana, plantain, or any musae spp.). In cases where only a few plants in a field were infected those plants were treated and a buffer zone of 25 ft established. That is, all healthy plants in a zone 25 feet from the last row treated are taken out as a precautionary measure. It is those plants that were treated that the farmer was paid for as compensation.

In the administration of the treatment protocols there were some difficulties, since some fields producing bananas under the Fair-trade label had weeds in excess of 3 ft and bunches sleeved with 3-4 hands. Under the strict production standards, these fields would have been deemed abandoned. However, given that they were operational, they had to be counted. The irony of it is that fields under excellent management conditions with 8-11 hand sleeved bunches had to settle for the same compensation rate for bearing like those with 3-4 hands – somewhat an injustice.

The protocol teams were supported by the Extension Staff whose responsibility was to follow an established protocol to scout all bananas, plantain and musae spp. to detect any signs or symptoms of the Moko Disease and to provide such information on a daily basis to the Senior Agricultural Officer, who used the information to update the original list.

Then there was a monitoring and verification team which visited every field treated to confirm the presence of Moko, verify the number of plants treated to check consistency with the amount of compensation payments made and whether any plants were missed that needed to be treated.

To date, an amount of 223 farmers have benefited from 4 packages of compensation payments. A total of 142.5 acres of bananas and 6.5 acres of plantains have been treated (83,439 mats of bananas, 5132 mats of plantains, 30 other musae spp. and 4000 plants of other food crops). The total expenditure as of 17th September 2007 was $1,823,880.00 of which the compensation amount is $912,811,000.00, treatment protocol $350,880 and the procurement of plants hardening facilities and other support systems $560,189,000.00 leaving a balance of $2,176,119.78.

The report of 14th September from the monitoring and verification team stated that of the 149 acres treated, 83 have been verified and there are only 2 farms on which discrepancies were found. These discrepancies relate to a difference in the number of plants treated. However, all the fields were confirmed to have the Moko disease.

Treatment Protocols:

The first (1st) phase of the emergency programme ended on the 31st August 2007.

The way forward will include the following:

i. Two (2) teams will continue to administer the treatment protocols throughout the country. Two (2) officers are assigned to these teams and the Plant Protection Officer will provide technical guidance.

ii. The Monitoring and Verification Team of three (3) officers will continue this exercise and a third (3rd) treatment team referred to as the “mopping up team” will work along with the officers to treat any plants that were missed during the application of the Treatment Protocols.

iii. All officers within the respective Agricultural regions will work one (1) day per week to continue the searching for new incidences of the disease and where such disease is identified the information will be passed to the Treatment Protocol Teams.


The fifth (5th) compensation list is being prepared and the process will continue as new fields are treated over time.


The Protocols for replanting have been developed in collaboration with the SVBGA and cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Moko Disease in support of the Plant Protection Acts of 2007.

The procedures will include:

  • Every farmer wishing to plant bananas/plantains will have to make an application on the application form provided.
  • A technical team headed by Mr. Sylvester Vanloo and includes Seithroy Edwards, Conrad Simon, Marcus Richards and O. Browne of WINFA/FAIRTRADE will do the inspection of the fields and certification of same once the conditions are met.
  • A certificate will be given to the farmer giving approval for planting.
  • Upon receipt of the certificate the farmer then has to prepare the lands, including digging the holes to receive the plants.
  • Another inspection is done and the plants will be provided under established procedures.
  • The recommendations is for farmers to use plants provided by the Ministry at all times except otherwise advised by the Ministry in collaboration within the SVBGA.

Plant Preparation:

  • 10,000 plants are hardened at Rivulet and Belmont for distribution by end of September to start the first planting.
  • The other 125,000 plants of which 100,000 will come from Israel will be hardened and planted between October and December, 2007.

Lease of Lands:

Arrangements are currently being made to have 80 acres of lands at Massarica Estate made available for use by farmers whose fields have been affected by the Moko Disease.

As a committed group of stakeholders in the Banana Industry (SVBGA, WINFA/Fair-trade and the Ministry) there is a Motto, Zero Tolerance to Moko. This can only be achieved through total honesty, integrity and professionalism on the part of the members of each stakeholder group in the process. Let us continue to fight Moko using a national collective approach irrespective of our differences.

As we fight to control Moko there is the firm belief that the entire banana industry needs to be re-examined and restructured. To this end, a consultant has been recruited at the insistence of government and the stakeholders. The draft report was presented and discussed on Thursday 13th 2007 at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Conference Room.

The re-examination of the Banana Industry is on-going and the Government is giving the assurance to all banana farmers that the final outcome of the re-examination will be in their best interest.

The Ministry solicited and received the support of all Vincentians and the major stakeholders in the banana industry in its fight against Moko, let us not waiver. I oblige.

Mr. Reuben Robertson
Chief Agricultural Officer (ag.)