Dominica’s government is waging war on the Black Sigatoka disease since it could have a crippling impact on the socio-economic development of the island.
The presence of Black Sigatoka was officially confirmed on the island last week when a sample of a suspected plant was sent for lab testing in Martinique.
Black Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease of banana that can cut a tree's fruit production in half. The fungal disease causes dark leaf spots that eventually enlarge and combine, causing much of the leaf area to turn yellow and brown.
According to Plant Protection Officer, Ryan Anselm, who was speaking at a press conference earlier this week, the disease can be managed and confirmed if farmers adhere to the strict instructions issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Anselm said that the disease has been intercepted between Scott’s Head in the south, Castle Bruce in the east and Belles in the central region.
He also said that the strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture is containment and management.
Hon. Matthew Walter said that his ministry is assertively tackling the disease.
He said, “Black Sigatoka must be viewed as a very dangerous disease and Government is not going to drag its feet in implementing the relevant measures to ultimately achieve the objective of the complete eradication of Black Sigatoka. We cannot afford to be playing around with the disease. Food security and our export market are too important. This is why, in relation to our quick response measures, that we have brought onboard Carol Severin-Abraham who is a Pathologist and has worked in the Ministry of Agriculture for some time. She is qualified in this field and is competent enough to coordinate this very important Black Sigatoka Management Programme.”
Not only is Government taking action against the disease, says Hon. Walter, but proactive steps were also taken beforehand including a $300,000 allocation.
“Well before the confirmation of the disease, we activated an emergency action plan for the management and control of Black Sigatoka. Fundamental actions taken today include the activation of an emergency task force, the establishment of regional field coordination committees in each agricultural region and the development of a management strategy for the disease. I must note that even before the laboratory official confirmation of the disease, Cabinet had already released $300,000 to initiate control and management strategies.”
The Coordinator of the Black Sigatoka Management Programme, Carol Severin-Abraham noted that Dominica’s government is well ahead in terms of taking immediate preventative and management action.
She said, “There’s a lot of activity that the Ministry of Agriculture is doing very quickly that you have not seen in other states. The other countries are not going as fast as Dominica is and I want to [say] that this is happening very quickly and Dominica is reacting quickly as well. Behind the scenes, money is already being allocated. When we go to regional meetings, we hear of what Dominica is doing and it is quite startling that we are moving so quickly and taking this so seriously. I think that the regional organisations are very pleased with how quickly the Ministry of Agriculture is acting on this.”
Additionally, Dominica’s government is looking into introducing resistant varieties of plantains and bananas on the island.