Farms recovering from Red Palm Mite infestation
Gradually the leaves of coconut trees are returning to bright green and blossoms are beginning to protrude- promising signs that the Red Palm Mite pest that wreaked havoc over the coconut industry for months is now being defeated.
Government in December 2015 injected some $49M to purchase chemicals and other materials to fight against the pest in all coconut producing Regions. This support came following a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder and farmers.
In addition, Extension Officers of the National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI) have increased their presence on the ground offering technical support and monitoring the situation. Thus far, over 540 farmers have received chemicals and requisite training involving the treatment of infected plants.
The presence of the pest was first observed in Wakenaam, Region Three. NAREI had quarantined the island and placed preventative measures in neighboring Region Two. But, those efforts did not stop the pest from reaching the Pomeroon and other farming communities on the Essequbio Coast. In fact, even with, advisories informing farmers about the outbreak in Wakenaam not many were prepared for the devastating effects of the pest.
Dennis Cox is one of the many coconut farmers in the Pomeroon (the largest coconut producing area) whose farm had been affected by the Red Palm Mite. For months Cox observed the drastic changes in his farm: tree branches had become brown and no blossoms were visible.
Finally, owing to an advisory broadcast via the radio Cox became aware of the Red Palm Mite. Farmers in the area were trying different remedies but to no avail. Fortunately, Extension Officers visited the area and Cox’s conclusion was proven to be accurate -his farm was infested with the Red Palm Mite.
He benefited from Government’s assistance package. Today, Cox’s coconut farm, which is his only means of earning an income, is in the recovery stage. He is looking forward to a good harvest but will continue to be vigilant for the Red Palm Mite.
He is aware that farms in the Pomeroon are at a great risk of being infested by the Red Palm Mite owing to the large number of unattended farms. However, Cox is of the view that the training farmers were exposed to would enable them to swiftly respond to any future attacks of the Red Palm Mite pest.
Like Cox, Randolph Garraway is keeping a watchful eye on his coconut farm, spanning some 15-acres. The effects of the Red Palm Mite on Garraway’s farm were not devastating since NAREI responded timely.
According to Garraway, had it not been for NAREI’s intervention his farm would have been destroyed by the Red Palm Mite.
“NAREI came and nick of time…I applied the chemicals and for two months now the trees are normal…the plants are getting green…I am thankful for the assistance because if couldn’t afford to purchase the chemicals,” He said.