Plant pests in Barbados eating into government coffers

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, April 25, 2008 – Officials in Barbados have reported that efforts to fight destructive plant pests such as the Giant African Snail is costing government significant sums of money and the bill is projected to get higher.

Government entomologist, Brett Taylor, has revealed that within the past eight years administrations have spent over BDS$1 million (US$500,000) in the fight against the Giant African Snail alone – a figure which is expected to increase significantly in light of the introduction of approximately 19 new destructive plant pests into the island within the last 10 years.

“That is the type of costs we are paying for the introduction of new pests into the island, and that is just one pest. So, think about the amount of money we are talking, if you put a cost to the damage to crops that these other pests are causing on the island,” he said.

Mr Taylor said the bill is rising despite the existence of trade protocols; phytosanitary rules and regulations; and a Pest Risk Analysis team, comprising entomology and plant quarantine officials who are charged with the responsibility of analysing and mitigating the risk of the introduction of plant pests through globalised trade.

He said the threat of additional pests came along with not only the existing trade relationship with Barbados’ Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partners, but with additional export requests from Columbia, Venezuela,  Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru among others.

“These countries have a whole lot of pests that we don’t have – all sorts of fruit flies, beetles, scale insects that we don’t have in Barbados, so it is a challenge. It is a wide variety of produce that they want to send to the island, so you can understand our predicament,” the entomologist said.