Currently, Jamaica is restricting the importation of banana, plantains and any relatives of the plant family as the country is now on high alert for the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) disease, previously called “Panama Disease”, which attacks the crops.
Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw, in a statement in parliament this afternoon, informed that TR4 is considered one of the 10 most notable diseases in the history of agriculture “and is the most destructive disease to have affected bananas, plantains, and the Heliconia plant.”
Shaw explained that the fungus spreads through infected plant materials and infested soil particles attached to any item such as farm tools, shoes, clothes, animals and vehicles.
“This means that visitors to our shores and, even, we, as residents when we travel, can bring this fungus into Jamaica. As such, I am urging all visitors and residents to adhere to the guidelines as established by the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Branch of the Ministry,” he told jamaica-gleaner.com.
The agriculture minister emphasised that the disease is not in Jamaica, but noted that the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Branch as well as the Banana Board and other relevant stakeholders have implemented preventative initiatives to safeguard the Jamaican banana and plantain industry.
He said banana and plantain producing nations of Latin America and the Caribbean including Jamaica are accelerating the agreed Action Plan for the prevention of the disease in the respective territories.
Noting that TR4 is not new, he said Jamaica moved to heightened its response because of the fact that the disease has now been reported in the western hemisphere for the first time and, on August 8, it was confirmed in Colombia, where over 150,000 hectares of banana and plantains were been destroyed in an effort to contain it.