Nov 19, 2015 News
-as coconut farmers urged to form representative association
After consultations with coconut farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture will be sending a team of specialists to Essequibo to combat the dreaded Red Palm Mite disease within the next three weeks.
The group was also urged to form an organisation consisting of farmers who can collectively communicate the issues being faced by the farmers.
This was communicated on Monday, after Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder met with Pomeroon farmers in Charity, Essequibo to discuss strategies against the disease.
During the discussions, Pomeroon farmers revealed exactly how much the disease, which has been ravaging coconut populations recently, has cost them.
The farmers complained that they are currently losing over 50 percent of their crop because of the pests. They also voiced their frustrations, stating that for years the industry has not been given any assistance.
The Minister announced that specialists would be deployed; free chemicals to combat and control the mite would be distributed.
Chief Executive Officer of National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) Dr. Oudho Homenauth also addressed the farmers. He noted that there are a number of methods of control being examined by NAREI.
He explained that even though farmers previously used Monocrotophos insecticide to treat the pests, it is no longer being imported in Guyana because of its side effects.
“Monocrotophos is effective but traces of the chemical can be found in the coconut bi-products. Since we export coconut products it is not advisable that this chemical be used to treat the Red Palm Mite. This particular chemical was already banned by the EU and Guyana” he said.
It was pointed out that there is a body of International Partners who implemented a project that deals with the development of the coconut industry, and two Pomeroon coconut farmers are currently sitting on that Board of Directors.
The disease is caused by the red palm mite or Raoiella indica. This pest is native to Asia and the Middle East, but has managed to find footing in the Caribbean and the United States.
Their reddish colour usually makes them easy to spot against green leaves. They are generally found on the lower surfaces of leaves and cause yellowing of the leaves which can be severe in large infestations. In the Western Hemisphere, the red palm mite is known to feed on numerous palm species, as well as banana and gingers.
It had been reported in September that Government would be engaging international experts to deal with the disease. It was also related that technical experts from the Inter-American Institute for Co-Operation on Agriculture (IICA) and Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) were already assisting the Ministry.
In addition to exports, many consumers were skeptical about purchasing coconut water since some farmers were treating the affected coconut trees with monocrotophos.
It had been predicted that by next year, should help not be forthcoming, the coconut industry in Pomeroon would collapse. Nor is the disease confined to coconuts, as they have spread to plantain and banana plants.
The coconut palm is grown in over 80 countries around the world. From the world production, more than 50 percent is processed into copra. A small portion is converted into dissected coconut, while the rest is consumed as fresh nuts.
Locally, coconut ranks third in regard to acreage cultivated, after rice and sugar.
With the current downward trend of rice and sugar, long considered Guyana’s agricultural mainstay, there have been calls for Government to focus its attention on non-traditional crops.
Popularly referred to as the ‘tree of life’, Coconut is also a source of renewable energy. Its fields can also accommodate various crops including livestock.
Coconut is widely considered one of the key non-traditional crops that Guyana has to offer, as it can not only be used in fuel, food and feed, but can produce coconut water and oil, kernel and milk.
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