Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), Dr Oudho Homenauth has responded to the report of the red palm mite issue in the island of Wakenaam, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara). Guyana Times was recently told that the pest, also known as Raoiella indica Hirst, remains prevalent in Wakenaam, with one farmer indicating
that some 600 plants in his coconut nursery are under threat.
In a brief interview with this publication on Thursday, the NAREI head disclosed that the pest problem never dissipated. Dr Homenauth explained that while the red palm mite cannot be totally controlled, it can be managed, noting that NAREI had been extensively battling the pest for some two years.
The CEO clarified that at one point the pest was between 60-70 per cent contained and further encouraged that farmers implement the knowledge sharing programmes which NAREI had conducted in the past indicating how they can manage the problem.
He also reminded farmers to continue using the requisite fertlisers and chemicals, and observe proper sanitation practices, and ensuring that their farms are free of weeds.
Dr Homenauth also told Guyana Times that monitoring is ongoing across the regions, including Wakenaam Island. He however, stressed that all of the farmers are “not listening to the advice of NAREI” in terms of observing its recommendations. Red palm mite causes leaves of plants to wither before falling off and NAREI had distributed chemicals to coconut farmers to treat their plants late last year but as the problem is seemingly on the rise, farmers expressed worry over possible losses.
One farmer, Ramkissoon (only name given), told this publication on Wednesday that the red palm mite is plaguing his coconut farm, especially attacking coconut nurseries which have young plants. In December 2015, Government had allocated $49 million for the procurement of chemicals and additional materials to contain the pest in the affected locations.
First entering the Caribbean region around 2004, the presence of the pest was first observed in Wakenaam which forced NAREI at one point to quarantine the island. The agency had also placed preventive measures in neighbouring Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam).
However, those efforts did not stop the pest from reaching the Pomeroon and other farming communities on the Essequibo Coast where farmers suffered losses to coconuts, nuts and fruit trees. The mites are dispersed through wind from affected plants. (Shemuel Fanfair)