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Citrus disease hits Govt farms

Published: 
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
200,000 plants to be destroyed
Rows of citrus plants which will be destroyed at Marper Farms, Manzanilla due to citrus greening disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture has taken a decision to destroy 200,000 citrus plants following traces of the citrus greening disease in our country.

The plants, which range from a few months to two-years-old, are valued $5 million.

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambhrat said yesterday instructions to destroy the lemon, lime, portugal, grapefruit, orange and tangerine plants were handed down by his Permanent Secretary (PS) Angela Siew recently.

In the eradication exercise, which started last week, the plants were sprayed with an insecticide and then burned to avoid the disease, also known as Huanglongbing from spreading.

Rambharat said the destruction of the plants would cause “delays in accessing plants” until the ministry’s Research Division and the Permanent Secretary “decide that production of seedlings would resume.”

Rambharat said T&T could not take any chances since the disease decimated the Florida citrus sector and its presence in Trinidad was a major setback for the sector.

“From a sales point of view, this is a $5 million loss of revenue. The impact of citrus farmers and potential citrus farmers would be a loss of time and potential sales down the road,” Rambharat said.

A source said workmen at the St Augustine Nurseries, Curepe and La Reunion Estate, Centeno facilities were close to completing the task of spraying and burning 140,0000 plants. The remaining 60,000 are at Marper Farm at Plum Road, Manzanilla.

Over the last two days, workmen at Marper farm sprayed and set ablaze approximately 30,000 plants.

“The disease was confirmed in St Augustine a few weeks ago,” a source told the T&T Guardian. Each plant is sold at $25.

Lawrence John, president of Todd’s Road Citrus Farmers’ Association said the news of the plants being destroyed was disturbing and worrying since he had put in an order for between 20,000 to 40,000 plants since 2008 which the Ministry has not been able to fulfil.

“I am very upset because our association has been waiting for close to 10 years for plants. With this shortfall, what is going to happen to the citrus industry? Will we now face the breadline?”

The source said he expects private nurseries will now increase the price of their plants, while consumers would have to dig deeper into their pockets for the commodity.

“The public also has to be wary of buying contaminated plants which can spread the disease in the blink of an eye,” the source warned.

About citrus greening

Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world. It is also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease.
Once a tree is infected, there is no cure. While the disease poses no threat to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad.
Citrus greening is spread by a disease-infected insect, the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama or ACP), and has put the future of America’s citrus at risk.
Infected trees produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice.