Barbadians are being encouraged to check with the Ministry of Agriculture first before bringing any plants into the island, whether seeds, fruits or vegetables, since this has the potential to cause severe harm to the local agricultural sector.
This advice has come from Officer-in-charge of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Plant Pathology Unit, Michael James, who lamented that too many Barbadians generally do not take the issue of plant diseases or pests seriously and he urged persons, whether importing a small seed or a caseload, to seek permission from the Plant Quarantine Unit.
Seeds in this instance refer to anything which can be used to propagate a plant, whether a piece of a plant, tissue culture or any actual fruit or vegetable.
Speaking to the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), Mr. James stressed that it was extremely difficult to eradicate a pathogen once it entered the island and as such, every effort was made by agricultural officials to exclude plant diseases.
"When we tell persons you can’t import this particular plant or when we tell people don’t do a particular thing, it is not because we just don’t want them to do such or we just want to confiscate the articles when you come to the airport. We want to safeguard our biodiversity.
"For example, when we say don’t bring bananas from a specific area it could be because there is a serious problem which affects bananas called Moko Disease. It is a bacterial disease for which there is no cure and obviously if it gets into Barbados, we have our own fledging banana industry, we do not want to have that decimated," Mr. James explained.
The Plant Pathologist maintained that any measures applied by the Plant Protection Unit were done objectively.
"We apply any measures without fear or favour. It doesn’t matter if you are an individual or a large importer. We try as far as possible to follow the standards and conditions that are accepted internationally and which we have agreed to under the World Trade Organization/Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. Under this ????????????????????????????????
Agreement, standards are set by the International Plant Protection Convention and these must be scientifically based.
"We take this very seriously since a pest incursion could have the potential to wipe out the agricultural sector in Barbados. Try to cooperate with us because we know what we are doing," Mr. James appealed.
The Plant Pathology Unit, along with Entomology, the Pesticide Control Board, and the Plant Quarantine Unit, form Plant Protection, a four-pronged, integrated approach in safeguarding the island’s agricultural crop resources.
The Unit is located at Graeme Hall, Christ Church and officers may be reached at 434-5000 or 434-5114, or persons may visit the website http://www.agriculture.gov.bb/ for further information.