Millions to battle frosty pod rot
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries will spend $150 million over the next three years to eradicate the frosty pod rot disease that is affecting the local cocoa industry. Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda said the disease, which was first detected in Clarendon, could result in crop losses of between 70 and 80 per cent of production and would have a devastating effect on the industry.
Samuda was speaking on Thursday at a press briefing held at the ministry offices in New Kingston.
"In late August, a cocoa farmer in Clarendon observed a fungal disease that looked different from black pod in his field and reported his observation to the Cocoa Industry Board (CIB)," Samuda said. He explained that the Research and Development Division of the ministry tentatively identified the fungal disease as frosty pod rot, and this was confirmed by the diagnostic lab of CAB International, located in the United Kingdom. The disease, which is highly contagious, is caused by the fungus Moniliophthora roreri, which invades actively growing cocoa pods, damaging them and the seeds they produce. This is the first time the disease has been confirmed in the Caribbean. Samuda said the situation is grave because it threatens one of the finest crops grown locally. To contain and eradicate the disease, the ministry and the CIB, with support from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, will put measures in place to assist cocoa farmers across Jamaica, the minister said.
Samuda is imploring farmers to be vigilant and to report all cases or suspected cases of the disease immediately to the Plant Quarantine Unit or other departments of the ministry.
Persons may contact the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's toll free number at 888-275-7232; the Research and Development Division at Bodles, St Catherine, at 754-2957; the Cocoa Industry Board at 923-6413; and the Plant Quarantine Protection Unit at 588-5844. Farmers are also being encouraged to use the WhatsApp number 435-5828 to send pictures where it is suspected that the disease has infected a crop or farm.