Increased transparency within the region in the area of agricultural health has been deemed a step in the right direction. 

The kudos came from Agricultural Health and Food Safety Specialist with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Carol Thomas, who said that   increased inter-agency collaboration over the past 10 years had led to a more open approach among countries.

She was speaking at the conclusion of a workshop on ‘The Identification of Mealybug and Scale Insects of Economic Importance to the Eastern Caribbean’, which was a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, IICA, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other partners.

In reference to pest identification, the IICA specialist noted that in the past countries may have hid infestations in an attempt to protect their trade, but this scenario had changed.

“So, for example, the Red Palm Mite is a problem that is more or less sweeping the Caribbean, but we have had quite a bit of transparency among the islands. They have identified these insects – they have notified their trade partners and as a result it has led to increased assistance to deal with the problem. So I think we are on the right track,” she said.

Ms. Thomas also lauded the ongoing collaboration between IICA and the USDA on regional projects, viewing the collaboration to be mutually beneficial for the region as well as for the international agency.

“Dealing with issues here (in the region) prevents them from being a problem there (USA). So, if they (USDA) can input resources before a problem arrives in their country – then they are helping us to deal with the issue here and also helping themselves.”

Safeguarding officer with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Central America and Caribbean area office, Russel Duncan, said the capacity building workshop was just one of several programmes  staged by his organisation in countries throughout the region, in an effort to  control pest and diseases and thereby safeguard regional as well USA’s agricultural sectors.

"One of the main results we have been seeing in our work is increased collaboration between various organisations including the Ministries of Agriculture and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and IICA, and that collaboration has
spurred a lot of  work  between these organisations," he added.

The University of Florida’s Southern Plant Diagnostic Network’s Amanda Hodges cited some similarities between the pest complex within the Caribbean and the southern region of the USA.

We have done similar workshops in the southern region of the USA promoting diagnostics and proper identification and awareness concerning invasive species. We are very interested in continuing these communications and collaborations with the Caribbean, and networking with this region as pests of the Caribbean are also relevant to the southern region of the USA,” she said.

Taxonomic Entomologist with the USDA’s Division of Plant Industry, Gregory Hodges also alluded to the mutual benefits of the collaborative efforts.

“We would love to continue the collaboration with the Caribbean. After all, we are neighbours, anything that affects the Caribbean will soon affect Florida and the Southern United States as well – so we definitely want to collaborate and learn from you as much as we can teach.”

Some of the invasive species, including the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug and the scale insect, Icerya ginestae, now present in Barbados and the region, are reportedly affecting Florida as well as other parts of the USA.

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