The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development has taken a proactive approach in the establishment of a task force to combat the advancing deadly Tropical Race 4 banana disease.
Tropical Race 4 (TR4) is the latest variant of the Fusarium Fungus Oxysporum f. sp cubense, recently renamed Fusarium Odoratissimum, a soil-borne pathogen that attacks the roots of the banana plant, causing wilting by clogging the plant’s vascular system and eventually killing the entire plant.
Presently, the disease is not in St. Lucia and the Ministry of Agriculture is in the process of unfolding and implementing a series of activities to heighten awareness about TR4 and how to prevent its entry into the island.
The taskforce is tasked with the goals of dissemination of information to relevant stakeholders, promoting early detection, the development of a rapid emergency action plan response, surveillance and monitoring (farms, borders, ports) technics, implementation of strict phytosanitary control measures, and effective alert methods.
The task force is soon to meet with key stakeholders (farmers, tourism industry, schools, church community) around the island to create a heightened awareness of the TR4 pathogen.
This disease can be transferred by humans, movement of contaminated soil on planting material, shoes, strong winds, water, importation of infected banana and plantain plant parts, machinery/vehicles, animals, tools and tires with soil.
The Ministry of Agriculture continues to advise on the importance of preparedness in the event the disease arrives at our doorstep. The Ministry strongly appeals to the public to:
- Refrain from bringing in any banana or plantain plant parts or attempting to smuggle any such items.
- Ensure that Persons, tourists, farm workers from overseas, agricultural professionals, and consultants that have recently visited other countries to please ensure that clothes and shoes are sanitized before entering our ports (both air and water).
- Ensure that cars and earth-moving vehicles are adequately sanitized before and after use.
TR4 is presently in neighboring Latin and South American countries and has the potential to reach our shores. We encourage everyone to participate and embrace this important awareness-raising activity.
SOURCE: Ministry of Agriculture/SLT