Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere has disclosed the submission of a report on Tropical Storm Bret’s damage to the local banana industry to Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre.
“We have submitted a report to the Prime Minister on the estimated damage following the storm, and what I know, what I can share, is that we are doing the best to source the funds,” Prospere told reporters.
He noted that when the funds become available, agriculture sector stakeholders will get a statement regarding the government’s support.
Tropical Storm Bret destroyed over seventy-five percent of Saint Lucia’s banana and plantain crops on June 22.
The storm hit when Saint Lucia could not grow enough bananas to meet international demand.
And currently, the banana and plantain sectors are on the alert against introducing the devastating TR4 disease, which is already impacting Asia, Australia, and Venezuela.
Prospere, citing Venezuela’s location in relation to Trinidad and Tobago and the movement of people between the two countries, observed the likelihood of TR4 reaching Saint Lucia if there are no preventative measures.
Tropical Race 4 (TR4) is the latest Fusarium Fungus Oxysporum f. sp cubense variant, recently renamed Fusarium Odoratissimum.
The soil-borne pathogen attacks the roots of the banana plant, causing wilting by clogging its vascular system and eventually killing the entire plant.
The Saint Lucia Agriculture Minister said TR4, which stays in the soil and can easily be moved around, is deadly.
He explained it could not be treated.
In addition, Prospere said the disease could potentially wipe out the entire local banana industry.
As a result, he said the Ministry of Agriculture has been proactive in establishing a special committee to work with all stakeholders to increase biosecurity measures at air and sea ports and sensitise farmers to the symptoms of TR4.