Banana Board on alert for threat of TR4 disease
General Manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, says the organisation is intensifying collaborative efforts with local, regional and international stakeholders against the potential threat of the Tropical Race 4 Disease (TR4).
Speaking at a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Studio 58A session, Mrs Conie said that given the impact that TR4 can have on the banana industry, the Banana Board and Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) are on high alert.
“It can stay in the soil for up to 30 years, so it is a very devastating disease. We are trying to alert everyone on how not to bring that disease back to Jamaica. There are multiple avenues through which the disease can come and we are trying to identify all of the areas, control points and risks, so we are putting together a formula to keep the disease out of Jamaica,” she explained.
According to Mrs Conie, since the confirmation of TR4 in Colombia in August this year, the region has been working together to keep the disease from spreading.
“We are collaborating with all of the Caribbean and Latin America. We have a plan that everyone is using, but we had to tailor it to our needs. We have a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) lab, it is a very specific diagnostic method and we are joining forces with scientists and other labs. We have also established relationships with overseas labs to confirm anything that we have, so we can find it fast,” she said.
The Banana Board has also been training local personnel to identify and quarantine the disease.
“We are retrofitting our labs and teaching our scientists, extension officers, border patrol, quarantine officers, customs and irrigation officers on how to help us to keep it out,” Mrs Conie noted.
She emphasised that the coastguard and marine police are also critical to their efforts against the threat of TR4.
“We know that we do have fishermen that fish in our waters and they may bring things into the country, so that is why we have been talking to the coastguard and the marine police, as a piece of banana material with the disease can wipe out an entire industry,” she added.
Suspected cases of the TR4 disease should be reported to the Ministry’s Plant Quarantine Branch at (876) 977-0637, (876) 977-6401 or the Banana Board at (876) 922-2083, (876) 383-7235.
earlier this year Agriculture Minister, Audley Shaw said the potential risk posed to Jamaica’s banana and plantain crops as a result of the emergence of the deadly Tropical Race Four (TR4) disease in the Western Hemisphere, has forced the Jamaican Government to restrict the importation of the crops into the country.
He described the development as a matter which has "serious, national implications”.