Fri | May 29, 2020

St Mary cocoa farmers being affected by frosty pod disease, Alexis appeals for help

Published:Monday | October 7, 2019 | 11:04 AM
PNP caretaker for St Mary South East Dr Shane Alexis - File photo

The People’s National Party’s (PNP) caretaker for St Mary South East Dr Shane Alexis is appealing to the government to provide assistance to cocoa farmers who he says have been badly affected by the frosty pod disease.

Alexis says the disease has severely reduced and, in some cases, completely destroyed the yield of cocoa in the area.

In Photo: Frosty pod rot-affected cocoa pods

Frosty pod is caused by the Moniliophthora roreri, which produces billion of spores that are easily spread by wind, water, or humans.

It can remain active on clothing and other material and equipment for up to nine months.

Signs and symptoms only appear on the pods.

Alexis, in a statement this morning, said hundreds of persons who are connected to the cocoa industry are now suffering severe hardships as a result of the economic fallout from the disease.

According to him, the Government's initial response, administered by the Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, to prune the affected trees has now left many cocoa farmers with trees that cannot produce fruit.

As a result, he says farmers cannot earn an income from their cocoa fields.

“The Minister of Agriculture, Hon Audley Shaw, must now act quickly and decisively to rescue the economic prospects of the cocoa farmers and restore confidence in the industry,” the PNP caretaker said.

“South East St Mary is remembered as a proud and strong farming community. The cocoa farmers are not asking for handouts from the government, but instead a sustainable and viable plan to save their livelihoods and help the country earn valuable foreign exchange,” he added.

Alexis’ appeal

1)     Increase and improve the level of consultation and participation of the affected farmers and their associations in planning for the future.

2)     Accelerate the intervention of RADA to assist the farmers to replant their fields as quickly as possible.

3)     Lobby the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to provide grants/loans, especially to small and medium sized cocoa farmers for nursery programmes.

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