New disease threatens cocoa farmers
Cocoa farmers across Jamaica are now fearful that they could lose their livelihood should the frosty pod rot disease take root in the country.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries said it would spend $150 million over the next three years to eradicate the frosty pod rot disease that is affecting the local cocoa industry.
The disease, which was first detected in Clarendon, could result in crop losses of between 70 and 80 per cent of production and would have a devastating effect on the industry.
"In late August, a cocoa farmer in Clarendon observed a fungal disease that looked different from black pod in his field and reported his observation to the Cocoa Industry Board (CIB)," portfolio minister Karl Samuda said.
The disease, which is highly contagious, is caused by the fungus Moniliophthora roreri, which invades actively growing cocoa pods, damaging them and the seed they produce. This is the first time the disease has been confirmed in the Caribbean.
SIGNS OF THE DISEASE
Dr Winston Green, the member of Parliament (MP) for South East St Mary, said that there is a real fear that the disease is also in his parish. He told THE WEEKEND STAR that a farmer turned up at a cocoa growers' meeting with a sample of cocoa, which he said fits the description of the the frosty pod rot disease.
"Many other farmers have said that they have seen signs of it," Green said, while adding that he did not want to be alarmist.
The MP, however, said that should the frosty pod rot disease be confirmed in St Mary, it could mean a tremendous loss for farmers in areas such as Richmond and Castleton as the treatment could see them losing up to two crops.