At a recent press conference on Tuesday 21st June, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation, Hon. Saboto Caesar, disclosed that the Banana Services Unit is continuing efforts to reduce the Black Sigatoka disease to Cronshaw levels to a minimum of one or two.
Minister Caesar said his aim is to “keep Black Sigatoka out of the headlines”. In this regard, he stated “for the year, we have been able to keep it out of the headlines, meaning it is not one that has aroused so much discussion in the public as a problem”.
Despite efforts to eradicate the Black Sigatoka disease, the Minister of Agriculture stated, “it is a disease that we would have to live with and we would have to adjust the technology that we use in terms of farming”. He called on farmers to prune and fertilise banana plants regularly.
From the Ministry of Agriculture’s perspective, Minister Caesar said his Ministry will “ensure that our fertilizer programme that we have in place, that it is properly managed and the fertilizer is applied on time so that the plants are healthier”.
Minister Caesar is mindful that the increased application of fertiliser will be an added cost that farmers will have to bear. This, he remarked, is a sad thing because “it is not reflected in an increase in price” of bananas. Furthermore, he stated that “farmers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have done a great job so far”. However, Minister Caesar added that there are still abandoned banana fields and that these are a potential source for new outbreaks of the Black Sigatoka disease.
Minister Caesar stated the aerial spraying will continue, and that he has met with Head of the Banana Services Unit (BSU), Mr. Karomo Browne to discuss the purchase of more mist blowers. He admitted that this “is something that we have to seek further technical advice regarding the dispensation of these chemicals by individuals in the Ministry, if it is something that we want to intensify”.
He highlighted that certain chemicals pose health risks to citizens so that this has to be taken into consideration. “So all these issues we are working on but I am satisfied so far with the work of the Banana Services Unit in controlling Black Sigatoka disease here”, said Minister Caesar.
Caesar reminded farmers to cooperate with the Banana Services Unit and that “it is not only the BSU’s work but there is a careful partnership because the BSU cannot do its work if the farmer does not employ the proper farming practices, then we can have flaring ups”.
“We are in the rainy season and it is usually far easier to control Black Sigatoka in the dry season”, Caesar cautioned farmers. He said that the responsibility now lies on Mr. Karomo Browne “who has taken over from Mr. Sylvester Vanloo”. Browne, said Minister Caesar will be “tested for his mettle over the next six months and I really want to wish the team all the very best and to ask the farmers to continue to do their practices in terms of the fertiliser application, the de-leafing practices and to work with their extension officers to control the Black Sigatoka disease here”.