An effort to restore the island’s coconut production has been delayed due to infected plants.
In May 2018, Minister Austrie announced the importation of over ten thousand coconut plants, eight thousand citrus, five thousand certified coffee seeds, and forty thousand certified avocado seeds to help restore the island’s food production.
However, in his address to Parliament on Tuesday 31 July 2018, Minister Austrie revealed that the coconut plants had to be returned as it was discovered that they were infected.
“Disappointing for us though, is we ordered some twelve thousand Brazilian dwarf nuts from Costa Rica but unfortunately, Madame Speaker, we found out that there was a disease in those dwarf nuts and so we had to return them immediately,” he said.
Minister Austrie said the coconut plants, which were received through a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) program, were infected with Red Wing Disease.
Red Ring disease, as per the Belize AG Reporter publication, is caused by the tiny Red Ring nematode (Bursaphelenchus cocophilus). The vector of this nematode is the palm weevil (Rynchophorus palmarum), in whose gut the nematode resides until transmitted by feeding.
The report adds that the nematode causes serious damage to palms, which are stunted and eventually killed by nematode infection and that the host range of the disease is from Mexico to Central and South America and some Caribbean countries.
“When they found out, that is the Dominican Republic, because we got them from neighboring farms, they immediately put out an alert Madame Speaker and we were not even allowed to open the container,” Mr. Austrie informed.
“So we’re very confident that we did not introduce that new disease into Dominica,” he added.
Minister Austrie, who noted that following the passage of Hurricane Maria new varieties of diseases, frogs and invasive species are coming to our shores, emphasized the important role of the Plant Protection and Quarantine Unit.
“That is why the Quarantine and Plant Protection Unit has to be ready to intercept any undesirable seeds or viruses or whatever that comes into the country,” Minister Austrie said.