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Beet army worm to impact availability of scallion in local market

Published:Monday | May 15, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The beet army worm outbreak in south Manchester and surrounding communities is expected to significantly impact availability of some produce, particularly scallion, in the local market.

Principal director, training, technology and technical information division of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Marina Young, described the impact as severe.

"We have lost, between Manchester and St Elizabeth, about 43 per cent of the acreage that could be in production now," she said.

Young noted that RADA assessments of fields in the affected areas, which also include Comma Pen and Bull Savannah in St Elizabeth, indicate that there has been a total loss of 54 hectares of crop since the outbreak started in March. This is valued at some $111 million.

She further pointed out that 83 to 85 per cent of the crops destroyed by the pest were scallion, which has been identified as being particularly attractive to beet army worms.

A smaller percentage of onion, tomato, cucumber, watermelon, as well as callaloo and beetroot, has also been affected.




"We have to look at the immediate impact, which is loss of the crop. Scallion is a ratoon crop, and with damage to the crops, the farmers won't have that income for weeks to come," Young said.

She urged farmers to reduce the size of scallion farms in replanting, as a large acreage of the same plant, without rotations, is a trigger factor for an outbreak.

The principal director said that in addition to the impact on consumers and farmers, processors are expected to also experience the effects of the shortfall.

"Our processors will feel it as well, because they are the ones who will not be able to meet their obligation to the market with the value-added products, and we consider this very serious," she said.

RADA, along with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, is working closely with the farmers in the affected areas in a bid to provide the necessary tools and technical advice to battle the outbreak.