Minister most concerned about beetle that could be imported Loop Barbados

The content originally appeared on: Barbados News

As the world seeks to return to a sense of pre-COVID-19 pandemic normalcy, laying the Plant Protection Bill, 2022, in parliament today, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir wants to see laws rolled out to protect the island from pests that “could wipe us out”.

Currently, we don’t have any of these pests in Barbados

In the Lower House, though stating that none of the concerning pests that he and his ministry are keeping an eyes on are presently here, he stressed he is not waiting till too late to put the protective measures and legal framework in place. “The responsibility is still upon us to make sure that we can deal with these matters and do so effectively,” he asserted.

He brought three specific pests to the fore in his speech, explaining there are a few worrisome pests that wreck havoc on food production internationally which are holding the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture, but of greatest interest and concern to the Minister is the camphor beetle.

According to Minister Weir:

“The Cylas formicarius (sweet potato weevil), an insect that affects sweet potatoes and they have estimated that it can destroy from as small as five per cent up to 97 per cent of crops if not properly managed.

“There is also something called Fusarium Wilt TR4. It is said it is the most devastating disease to affect the banana industry and that the overall estimated value of loss is somewhere [in the vicinity of] USD $10 billion.”

Tropical race 4 (TR4) is the latest race of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp cubense. According to research it is a soil-borne pathogen that attacks the roots of the banana causing the Banana Fusarium Wilt disease.

“And then the one that frightens me is the camphor beetle. This is an insect that can hide anywhere. It can hide between… wood, metal, straw, any place including containers at sea, and it’s a very destructive beetle. This beetle is known to frequent the sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. And we trade globally and therefore we are at risk and we need to be able to anchor this where we protect Barbados.”

So as he brings this Bill before his peers in the House, he assured, “Currently, we don’t have any of these pests in Barbados, therefore it is important for us to note that with this type of legislation we will continue to protect our plant biodiversity and generally Barbados’ biodiversity because a plant is a plant is a plant when all is said and done.”

He the Plant Protection Act if passed, would be “for us to be able to manage and secure producing healthy food because that’s the genesis upon which all of this is built, that at the end of the day the conversation around sanitary and phytosanitary measures are about how we produce safe food for consumption.”

The minister also urged persons to understand that the impact of these pests in Barbados, were the island not protected would not only be catastrophic losses in terms of produce. “Now these don’t only affect in the reduction of yield, but can you imagine having then to use a sort of pesticides profile in order for us to be able to control or even manage these types of pests. That pesticides profile can also be devastating to the environment and in particular, to water-runoff, that invariably makes its way to the sea.”