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CARICOM countries on alert for major diseases affecting pigs and bananas

Posted: Monday, October 7, 2019. 2:42 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A pair of deadly diseases poses imminent risk to two key industries, according to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which wrapped up its meeting in Belize on Friday.

African swine fever is on the rampage in Asia and Europe, killing more than 50 percent of domestic pigs in China. It spreads rapidly and is resistant to heat and chemical treatments.

Agriculture Minister Godwin Hulse reported that while the disease has yet to make it to the Americas, Belize is preparing to stop it from getting in.

“There will be specific precautions taken, bio-security measures here in Belize to prevent it from getting into Belize, should it reach the region.   In Belize, as you know, we have BAHA [Belize Agricultural Health Authority] and BAHA is charged principally with this and making sure that we manage these risks, whether that is at the border points as best as we can. Our borders are porous so it is at times difficult but clearly at the official points of entry we can begin to manage this process there. This is a little more complicated. I understand it lasts a longer time so there are more secure measures that are required. There is some significant studies already in the CARICOM mechanism which we will look at adaption to prevent that from Belize. We are very strict in terms of med fly and other quarantine points and we manage them rigidly, so we intend to do that. But it is important that the public hears so that if we have to spray them down at the airport or anywhere they know we have that do that it, they will understand we have to do that to protect our industries and there will be no exception.”

Meanwhile, the so-called “Panama disease,” properly known as Fusarium Tropical Race Four, is a soil fungi that devastates bananas, plantains and related species and can remain active in soils for more than twenty years. A previous strain of Fusarium wilt killed off the Gros Michel brand of bananas many years ago, while a different kind knocked off the popular Cavendish brand.

The current version was first detected in Taiwan, spread through Asia to Africa and Oceania and is now in Colombia in South America. It has no treatment and control option and is sure to devastate what remains one of Belize’s three biggest exports.

Minister Hulse says Belize has already instituted some biosecurity measures, and farmers have already started their own measures such as spraying down trucks, shoes and so on to ensure that the soil-borne disease doesn’t get onto the farms in South Stann Creek and Toledo Districts.

 

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