Cocoa farmers in St Mary want help to fight ‘Frosty Pod’ disease

Some cocoa farmers in St Mary, Jamaica, are crying out for the Government’s help to fight the Frosty Pod disease which is ravishing their farms.

Farmers in the districts of Enfield, Belfield, Richmond, Rock River and surrounding areas have been badly affected by the ‘Frosty Pod’ disease, which was confirmed in 2016. The disease has severely reduced and, in some cases, destroyed the yield of Jamaica’s internationally acclaimed fine flavour cocoa.

Hundreds of persons who are connected to the cocoa industry are now suffering severe hardships as a result of the economic fallout from the disease.

The People’s National Party’s (PNP) caretaker for St Mary South East, Dr Shane Alexis said the Government’s initial response, administered by the Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Agriculture to prune the affected trees, has now left many cocoa farmers with trees that cannot produce fruit.

“As a result, now, they cannot earn an income from their cocoa fields,” he said.

He said the Minister of Agriculture, Audley Shaw, must now act quickly and decisively to rescue the economic prospects of the cocoa farmers and restore confidence in the industry.

The last national cocoa planting programme was more than 50 years ago. Jamaica’s annual production of cocoa was almost 3,000 tonnes between 1995 and 1996, but it is now down to only 100 tonnes.