The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries will commence sensitising and training farmers to manage the Frosty Pod Rot (FPR) cocoa disease, beginning tomorrow (January 10).
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ today (January 9), Chief Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspector, Sanniel Wilson, said the first session will be held in St. Mary.
“We are starting with that parish because of the magnitude of the infestation there. The Government will be going out and assisting with the stripping and pruning of the cocoa trees to take back the parish,” she pointed out.
“St. Mary is unique because it has the largest acreages of cocoa and it also carries the fine flavour cocoa that fetches premium price,” Ms. Wilson added.
She said it is the intention of the Ministry to stop the disease, which affects actively growing cocoa pods, damaging them and the seeds they produce.
“We are trying to save over 8,800 acres of cocoa and the livelihood of more than 4,000 farmers,” Ms. Wilson said.
Ms. Wilson encouraged farmers to access the help that is being provided by the Ministry, explaining that the disease could result in losses of between 70 and 80 per cent of production, if not contained.
She pointed out that the disease is highly contagious, noting that Section 3 of the Plant Quarantine Act gives specific guidelines to be followed as part of measures to control and eradicate the infection.
“The Ministry’s response is threefold, starting with public education, then training sessions, followed by visits to remove and treat infected cocoa trees. The first thing we are doing is to make the public aware of what is happening, what the symptoms of the disease are, how it is spread and what needs to be done,” Ms. Wilson explained.
She said the Ministry also published a 2017 Frosty Pod Rot Disease Order, in an attempt to educate and guide persons on how the disease is spread, and the steps to be taken when persons come in contact with the pest.
“This Order is to restrict inter-parish movement of cocoa for fermenting. Where there must be inter-parish movement, we ask that you write to the Ministry and we will provide you with a plant quarantine officer to assist with the process, to ensure that the protocol for movement is carried out,” she added.
Ms. Wilson emphasised that following sensitisation sessions with farmers, it is important that they tell their neighbours, persons going to the fields to reap, higglers and venders who are visiting the farms, so that they can take caution and clean up properly if they come in contact with an infested tree.
She is encouraging farmers to be vigilant and to report all cases or suspected cases of the disease immediately to the Plant Quarantine Unit, or other departments of the Ministry.. Persons who need more information about the disease and the Ministry’s response may call 977-7160 or WhatsApp 435-5828
The Ministry is receiving support from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to assist cocoa farmers across Jamaica.