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“Around $4 million worth of bean crops lost to Asian Bean Thrip,” says agricultural authorities

Posted: Friday, March 26, 2021. 10:22 am CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MOAFS) along with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) have determined that the Asian Bean Thrip, a parasite discovered in Belize earlier this month, is all over the country and has been responsible for over $4 million in lost bean crops thus far.

BAHA and the MOAFS held a joint virtual press conference this week, to update the nation on the impact assessment that was launched since the pest was first discovered. Jose Novelo, Director, Grain Program Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture, explained that the pest has severely impacted black-eyed peas, a crop that is not in high demand locally but represents a million-dollar export in the CARICOM market.

“So, in terms of black-eyed peas, we basically cultivate about 6,000 acres and the figures I’m going to share with you are preliminary about 6,000 acres in production however the damage was between 45 to 50 percent. The estimated value of that 6,000 crops was about $8.4 million, so you can do the math and determine the level of losses that were incurred in the black-eyed peas primarily in Corozal, Orange Walk, and Cayo,” Gutierrez said.

Authorities will also have to look at the quality of the beans that survived, which could further reduce the amount exported. He did note, however, that the forecast for red kidney beans is more encouraging, with 13,000 acres planted and an estimated 10,000 yield. Gutierrez said that with the local demand for red kidney beans only at 5,000 pounds, farmers can safely export the 5,000 pounds without causing any shortages locally. 

According to Francisco Gutierrez, Acting Managing Director, BAHA, northern Belize has been hit the hardest by the pest, with the impact being slightly less in the western part of the country, and even less so in the south. Gutierrez explained that the main host of this pest includes beans of all varieties inclusive red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and that it severely affects black-eye peas. The pest is also known to affect leguminous crops such as soybeans, pigeon bean lima bean and even peanuts, and that all of the above have been affected in Belize.

“We believe we managed a hypothesis that the pest has been in the country for perhaps no more than 6 months given the nature of the epidemic, it really started off with very little population and it exploded all over which tends to be very common with new introductions. We also managed a theory that the pest was probably spread to the subregion by the tropical systems across the country late in the year starting with Nana then Eta. We can also not rule out the possibility of contraband given that this phenomenon still is known to happen,” Gutierrez said.

The Asian Bean Thrip is a tiny, elongated yellow and dark insect measuring two millimeters and found mainly in flowers, buds, and leaves. The pest causes stunted growth and deformation of the flowers and growing tips of growing crops.

 

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