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A leading plant pathologist is calling for Barbadians to be careful about the produce they bring into the island from their overseas travels.
This warning has come from Agricultural Officer at the Plant Protection Unit, Michael James, who said that: "Persons must be made aware of the requirements for importing produce."
He said: "It goes back to a number of things that you normally need before you can import any goods or any agricultural product into another country. When you import a product and I am referring to plants and that matter, we are looking at pests," he stressed.
The Agricultural Officer explained that a pest is any species, strain or bio-type, of any plant, animal or pathogenic agent injurious to a plant or plant product, and in layman’s terms, it could be anything that causes harm to a plant or plant product. He added that very often some of them (pests), are microscopic and therefore not visible to the naked eye.
"For example, with viruses you cannot see a virus because they are in the plant and the only way you can see it is by taking some pictures using certain microscopes. However, you can test for it using certain diagnostic tools, so this is what we mean by a pest," he maintained.
The pathologist pointed out that when referring to plants or plant policies they are known as Regulated Articles. He revealed that this simply meant that people who tried to bring in mangoes from any other country that Barbados had or hadn’t traded with, should meet the relevant criteria before produce from that country could come into ours.
"First of all, a Regulated Article is any plant, plant product, storage place, packaging, conveyance, container, soil and any organism, object or material capable of harbouring or spreading pests, and these are deemed to require a phytosanitary measure, particularly where international transportation is involved," he remarked.
Mr. James further noted that a Regulated Article could be the coconut hat that visitors liked to wear, or a bag made out of certain fibrous products that might not be allowed to come in, or even wooden furniture.
"You might see furniture someplace and decide to buy it, you might be relocating and you would have lived in a country before where that particular produce was good, but you might be bringing items into Barbados that we do not have, so that in itself is also a regulated article.?? Therefore, I urge people to be very careful when they are bringing produce into another country, especially from a country that we do not normally do trade with, as what I am saying comes directly from the Quarantine Act, and the Protection Act of 2007," he disclosed.
In citing that the Act was based on criteria that would have been released by the International Plant Protection Organisation, the pathologist explained they (the organisation) produced certain standards which countries needed to live by, in terms of trading of agricultural produce and in this instance plant produce. He added that it all had to do with trade, the World Trade Organisation and Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures.
"I strongly implore persons to find out from the Ministry of Agriculture the necessary requirements, before they decide to bring in produce. Another example of this is during the Crop Over season, individuals like to bring in feathers for costumes and feathers are animal products.?? So, I strongly suggest that you contact Dr.Trotman or Dr. Maitland of the Animal Nutrition Unit, or speak to a veterinary quarantine official and find out if they are allowed," he underscored.
While acknowledging that these measures were enforced to protect Barbados’ bio-diversity, the agricultural officer said that "some people felt undermined when officials instituted these procedures as they felt they were putting hurdles in their way of importing things and that was not so," he pointed out.
"Find out what you want to bring in and we would tell you whether or not you could bring it in and if you could, under what conditions. Take for instance, someone wanted to bring in orchids, there are certain diseases that exist in orchids outside of Barbados that we do not want here, we will tell you under what conditions these orchids can come in," he said.??
The plant pathologist also cited another plant produce to be mindful of, was anthuriums.?? He explained that there was a serious disease known as Anthurium Bacteria Blight, and although it already existed here, it comes in planting material.
"If you bring in these things or you hide them, all you are doing is spreading it more and we do not want that," he exclaimed.
In addition, the officer mentioned that certain produce such as mangoes, cassava and breadfruit, required a phytosanitary certificate from whatever country that person was coming from.
"What a phytosanitary certificate does is say well we have examined these products, we have looked at them and we can satisfy ourselves that they do not have any pests, visually.?? However, that does not mean when you get here that we are going to take it for granted that because you have a certificate that we would tell you to go ahead. We reserve the sovereign right as any other country to look at these products and then make a decision based on the produce especially if something is wrong, or you were issued a certificate for something that we do not allow to come into Barbados.
"People need to be aware of the rules and regulations. Ask a question, that is all you need to do. Call the Animal Quarantine [Unit], ask for Dr. Rosina Maitland, or Dr. Mark Trotman, or the Plant Quarantine and ask for the agricultural officer in charge, who is Mr. Everton Hunte at telephone number 426-1222.?? We must be vigilant before it becomes a serious problem," he declared.