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News in brief

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica equipped to conduct Zika testing for other countries

Jamaica is equipped to conduct Zika virus testing on behalf of other countries, if so assigned by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Acting director of the National Virology Reference Laboratory at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Professor Monica Smikle, said the facility is a valid WHO testing agency.

Members of staff have also benefited from training from the Pan American Health Organization.

The certification to test for Zika, Professor Smikle informed, comes from the WHO through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There was a process of capacity building after which tested samples were sent to the CDC in Puerto Rico for validation. Following subsequent reports that all tests were completely successful, the lab was given the go-ahead to proceed with testing here in Jamaica," she explained.

Crackdown on praedial larceny

As part of the anti-crime plan, the security forces are targeting abattoirs and markets to eliminate the practice of stolen agricultural items being sold at these establishments.

According to Minister of National Security Robert Montague, praedial larceny is high on the agenda of the ministry and, over the last two weeks, there have been several raids by the security forces at markets and places where animals are slaughtered.

He pointed out that this is being done under the intensified anti-crime effort, Operation Tidal Wave, as there is a commitment to protect farmers' investments from thieves.

"As we seek to increase production, we must ensure that the farmer gets the full return from his investment," the minister told scores of persons attending the 30th anniversary ceremony of the St Mary Agri-Expo, held last Monday, at the Grays Inn Sports Complex, Annotto Bay, in the parish.

National security committee to be formed

A committee comprising private-sector individuals is to be established by the Ministry of National Security to provide advice on related matters.

"We intend to not just speak about partnerships, we will demonstrate it in our policy-making process. I have met with a number of private-sector persons who have given their support. There are also some from the diaspora," said state minister in the ministry, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr.

He noted that correctional-services issues, among others, are some of the areas to which the committee is expected to provide technical assistance.

Ginger production to be improved

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is moving to improve Jamaica's ginger production in an effort to satisfy the export market.

General manager of the Export Division at the ministry, Byron Henry, said this will be done by increasing the number of ginger farmers across the island, particularly in the parishes known for cultivating the crop.

Henry said the ministry is focusing on the tissue-culture method in order to produce disease-free ginger plants for farmers, especially in the parishes of St James, Portland, Manchester, St Thomas and Clarendon.

To this end, the ministry is collaborating with the Scientific Research Council in the production of clean ginger plants, so that within a year, there will be enough disease-free planting material for farmers, including greenhouse operators.