Jamaica taking steps to protect banana, plantain crops from TR4 disease

Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw
Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw

The Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Branch and the Banana Board have been taking measures to protect the island’s banana and plantain crops from the Tropical Race Four Diseases (TR4), which has been found in this hemisphere.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, said the various bodies have been placed on high alert to keep the disease out of the country.

According to Shaw, among the initiatives taken is to place a ban on the importation of banana, plantains and relatives of the banana family into Jamaica.

 A thriving banana plantation in Jamaica. (Photo: JIS)
A thriving banana plantation in Jamaica. (Photo: JIS)

He also said that disinfection mats have been placed at the island’s international airports and cruise ship piers for travellers to disinfect their shoes before entering Jamaica.

Shaw said that the Banana Board has already established a diagnostic laboratory to conduct early identification of the disease in an effort to respond quickly should it reach Jamaica.

Shaw said that the TR4 diseases, previously called the Panama Disease, was found in Columbia in August, and the fungus is spread through infected plant materials and infested soil particles attached to any item such as farm tools, shoes, clothes, animals and vehicles.

He said that the measures to protect the banana and plantain crops are needed as they are important contributors to sustainable rural and national development with the Rural Agriculture and Development Agency (RADA) 2019 data review indicating that more than 68,000 farmers are involved in the industry.