Ministry Of Agriculture Makes Moves To Save The Citrus Industry

Ministry of Agriculture – Shade houses have been constructed at the Mirabeau Agricultural Station with the aim of creating new and clean citrus plants for distribution to the farming community.

This has become a necessity, as the existence of the Citrus Greening Disease has crippled the industry, causing the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands to cease distribution of plants to farmers for two consecutive Plant Distribution Seasons.

The Citrus Greening Disease, while it poses no threats to humans or animals, can cause devastation to infected fruit trees, causing them to produce fruits that are green, deformed, and bitter, which further deem them unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice.

One of the ways in which a disease infected tree can be recognized is by its yellowing leaves.

In an effort to sensitize the public on the disease, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, through the Pest Management Unit, has erected a billboard at the Mirabeau Agricultural Station recently, explaining the make-up of the disease and what can be expected. The Ministry is expected to erect similar billboards throughout the tri island state.

Chief Pest Management Officer, Mr. Thaddeus Peters, explained that together with the sensitization process, the Ministry is putting structures in place to resume propagation of citrus plants.

“We will be resuming propagation for the supply of clean planting materials to the farmers,” Peters said. “We are also in the process of sourcing some outside materials from reputable sources, where we can start our own cultures.”

New cultivation methods will have to be implemented, he said, if it must be ensured that clean materials are indeed supplied to the farmers.

“It would mean that we would have to put structures in place to protect those plants, because the materials that will be produced will be clean, but they will not be resistant,” he said.

“Citrus Greening is not something that is easily eradicated,” he added.

Knowing that the disease was carried into the country approximately eight years ago, Peters noted that quarantine measures with respect to citrus must be executed.

“With regard to citrus, we have disease like Citrus Canker; Citrus Leprosis Virus; Citrus Tristeza Virus. We as traders or as importers need to look at what we bring in and be aware that other stuff can come in because as citrus gets scarce, there will always be the risk or the temptation to import more and more,” he stated.

New and clean planting materials are expected to be available to farmers within the next two years.