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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

St Lucia in “national crisis” due to banana plant disease

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Friday January 20, 2012 – Minister for Agriculture and Food Production Moses Jn.  Baptiste said the country is facing a national crisis as the Black Sigatoka Disease continues to ravage the banana sector, a significant foreign exchange earner.

The government revealed it has asked a team of experts from the University of the West Indies to assist in combating the fungal disease that destroys banana leaves causing them to turn yellow and brown.

He said the country’s response requires support from the highest level and from all St Lucians, to avoid “total disaster”.

“I want to re-emphasise that this situation was left to develop into a crisis proportion and this calls for urgent and decisive action,   Therefore the government in which I serve will spare no effort as we seek to confront and manage this dreaded disease which is threatening the livelihoods of a wide cross section of our society,” he assured.

The minister said a “proactive and multifaceted approach” is being taken to prevent widespread destruction of the sector, including a review of a short-term plan of action.

Fungicides would also be provided to banana producers to spray plantations, he stated.

“In addition the Ministry has prepared a proposal, which details an action plan and suggests that a Task Force may be necessary to deal with the problem of Black Sigatoka. This proposal will go to my Cabinet colleagues for their consideration this week.   It will also encompass all banana and plantain farmers and there will also be a very serious and sustained education component to this plan.”

Meetings have been held with major banana stakeholders such as the National Fair Trade Organisation, WINFRESH and the Banana Production Management Unit.

Black Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease caused by ascomycete fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis (Morelet). The first symptoms are narrow, rusty, reddish-brown streaks on the underside of leaves


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