Importation Of Seed Nuts Worrying Coconut Farmers

GEORGETOWN, Farmers and stakeholders in the local coconut industry fear the worst after a prominent Pomeroon businessman reportedly imported thousands of coconut seedlings which may contain the devastating Lethal Yellowing palm disease. One of the country’s large scale coconut farmers has reportedly imported a container load of 10-20,000 seed nuts from Mexico to plant in the Pomeroon.

It has been suggested that such an importation can cause the “death” of the coconut industry in Guyana since there is the likelihood of the plants having the disease in one per cent of the nuts.

The disease spreads rapidly and has destroyed entire plantations in Northern Caribbean countries, including Jamaica.

Questions were raised over permission given to the businessman by the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) to import the seed nuts from a country where the disease is prevalent.

A NAREI official has noted that the disease could indeed have a devastating effect on the industry. The official could not say if NAREI had permitted importation of the nuts, but noted that the shipment would have to clear the quarantine units at the relevant port of entry here.

The official said the authorities are working to advance the development of the coconut industry and all systems would have to be in place to prevent the destruction of coconut plantations by disease.

President of the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce,Dileep Singh, told local media that Guyana has a viable and progressive coconut industry and there is no need to import plants which are affected by any type of disease. He said all steps should be taken to avoid diseased plants entering the market, noting that the situation is one which “worry us”.

According to research, the disease attacks many species of palm; in the Caribbean it is spread by plant hoppers. The only effective cure is prevention in which resistant varieties of coconut palms are planted, preventing a park or ‘golf course like’ environment which attracts the plant hopper.

Heavy turf grasses and similar green-ground cover will attract the plant hopper to lay its eggs and the nymphs develop at the roots of these grasses.
According to NAREI, there are some 1,454 coconut farmers in Guyana.

While the industry comprises a large number of estates, small farmers comprise a significant proportion of the industry, many of whom are located in the Pomeroon, Wakenaam and on the East Coast of Demerara