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Monday 20 May 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Red palm mite killingthe coconut industry

THE EDITOR: It is rather unfortunate that those with the power have allowed one of the country’s signature plants, the coconut palm, to be devastated by the red palm mite.

In the major coconut-producing coastal regions, including Cedros, Manzanilla and Mayaro, over 80 per cent of the crop has already been, or is on the way to being, destroyed.

Had this been the case with the mealy bug infestation back in the 1990s, there would have seen a complete destruction of the agriculture industry. There would be no local food.

Thank God the government of the day had the wisdom and foresight to act quickly to spray, cut, burn and discard all infected materials.

However, the same cannot be said for the present regime, for the coconut industry is almost on the verge of collapse and still we hear from the Minister of Agriculture that “we are waiting.” Waiting on what? According to him, “The main issue is the slow pace of the efforts to import planting material from Brazil and Mexico.”

Now, who is in charge of this portfolio and who is in the best position to speed up the process so that things can be done in the shortest possible time?

Seven years ago, India’s top biological expert, Dr Avvaru Sujatha, visited these shores on the request of the then TT government and certain recommendations were made to save the industry. It seems these suggestions were just shelved and successive ministers have failed to give this serious problem any attention.

The present minister needs to be more assertive and take the bull by the horns in order to save the industry. After all, food is basic to life and agriculture feeds the nation and without food there can be no life and no real human potential. According to one wise man, “If a nation cannot feed itself, it cannot possibly govern itself.”

We have already seen the eradication of sugar cane from the landscape. Are we now to accept a tropical island without coconut trees?

WKS HOSEIN, Chaguanas

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