The Ministry of Agriculture in Jamaica says it will start sensitizing and training farmers to manage the Frosty Pod Rot (FPR) cocoa disease.
Chief Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspector, Sanniel Wilson, said the first session will be held on Wednesday in the eastern parish of St. Mary.
“We are starting with that parish because of the magnitude of the infestation there. The Government will be going out and assisting with the stripping and pruning of the cocoa trees to take back the parish,” she said.
St. Mary is unique because it has the largest acreages of cocoa and it also carries the fine flavor cocoa that fetches premium price.”
Intention is to stop disease
Wilson said it is the intention of the Ministry to stop the disease, which affects actively growing cocoa pods, damaging them and the seeds they produce. “We are trying to save over 8,800 acres of cocoa and the livelihood of more than 4,000 farmers,” said Wilson who also encouraged farmers to access the help that is being provided by the Ministry, explaining that the disease could result in losses of between 70 and 80 per cent of production, if not contained.
The inspector pointed out that the disease is highly contagious. “The Ministry’s response is threefold, starting with public education, then training sessions, followed by visits to remove and treat infected cocoa trees. The first thing we are doing is to make the public aware of what is happening, what the symptoms of the disease are, how it is spread and what needs to be done.”
Ministry published guidelines
She said the Ministry also published a 2017 Frosty Pod Rot Disease Order, in an attempt to educate and guide persons on how the disease is spread, and the steps to be taken when persons come in contact with the pest.
“This Order is to restrict inter-parish movement of cocoa from fermenting. Where there must be inter-parish movement, we ask that you write to the Ministry and we will provide you with a plant quarantine officer to assist with the process, to ensure that the protocol for movement is carried out.”
Wilson emphasized that following sensitization sessions with farmers, it is important that they tell their neighbors, persons going to the fields to reap, higglers and vendors who are visiting the farms, so that they can take caution and clean up properly if they come in contact with an infested tree.
She has also urged farmers to be vigilant and to report all cases, or suspected cases, of the disease immediately to the Plant Quarantine Unit, or other departments of the Ministry.
The Ministry is receiving support from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to assist cocoa farmers across Jamaica.