Regional agricultural sectors stand to benefit from greater inter-agency and inter-island collaboration.
This was the overwhelming assertion of Agricultural practitioners attending a recent workshop on the Identification of Mealybug and Scale Insects of Economic Importance to the Eastern Caribbean at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
In addressing this issue, Entomologist with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Brett Taylor, said after only one day of training what stood out for him was the knowledge that could be gleaned from having collaborative programmes with persons even outside of the Organistaion of Eastern Caribbean States.
“We may have some of the expertise, but we may not always have all the knowledge and it is best that we collaborate with different agencies so that we can improve the skills set of the professionals in this area,” he explained.
Admitting that expertise in pest identification was somewhat lacking in the region, Mr. Taylor noted that in terms of scale insects there were over 7,300 known species, in addition to the unknown ones.
“Over the last 10 years, with the advent of the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug, it has become more and more evident that we need to be focused on the early identification of these invasive species into the Caribbean region. With this, we can put strategies in place where we are better able to control these pests as soon as they come in … If you don’t know exactly what the pests are then you are not able to put adequate pest control programmes in place,” he explained.
Mr. Taylor noted that the Ministry had closely collaborated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in recent years in an attempt to control the spread of the West Indian Fruit Fly, the Chilli Thrips, the Giant African Snail and a “host of other new pests which have been coming into the Caribbean”.
Regional Agricultural Health and Food Safety Specialist with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Carol Thomas, said increasing instances of inter-agency collaboration over the past 10 years had placed the region on the right track.