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Saint Lucia to step Up Surveillance Against Black Sigatoka Disease

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006 – Already reputed as one of the most lethal diseases to affect banana production, the Black Sigatoka which was discovered in Trinidad and Tobago in 2004 is said to be edging its way up the Windwards Islands.

Recently the disease which can reduce crop yields by as much as 50% or more was identified in Grenada. This new development has prompted new calls from the local banana industry for port workers, farmers and tourists in general to step up vigilance to ensure infected fruits are not brought into the country.

This week the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU) located in Cul De Sac – where the sister disease Yellow Sigatoka was identified, announced the revamping of its public sensitization of the Black Sigatoka.

Programme Manager of the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit Mr. Hilary La Force, this week informed the GIS that in light of the seriousness of the disease, an island-wide survey of farms will be undertaken beginning in March.

He said the survey will seek to determine whether the disease has found its way into Saint Lucia.

“In 2005 a survey was carried out in St. Lucia to determine whether the disease had actually entered our shores. Fortunately there were no signs of it. Now we cannot not say because there were no signs, we should drop our guard and continue on our merry way. We have to continue carrying out surveys to ensure the disease is not present and if it is, for us to begin to prepare ourselves to manage it.”

Mr. La Force said persons coming from countries in Latin America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and other places where the disease exists and who have come into contact with bananas or plantains are advised to have a change of clothes when entering Saint Lucia to reduce the transfer of spores.

“It can be transported several ways, among them via strong wind but the major way is by human beings in transporting food and other goods and trade activity,” said Mr. La Force.

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