Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Green: Gov’t sets aside millions to treat with yam rust disease

Published:Thursday | June 20, 2024 | 12:48 AMRochelle Clayton/Staff Reporter
Yam leaves affected by a suspected case of yam rust disease found on a farm in Chudleigh, Manchester.
Yam leaves affected by a suspected case of yam rust disease found on a farm in Chudleigh, Manchester.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining Floyd Green.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining Floyd Green.
Yam leaves affected by a suspected case of yam rust disease found on a farm in Chudleigh, Manchester.
Yam leaves affected by a suspected case of yam rust disease found on a farm in Chudleigh, Manchester.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

Agriculture Minister Floyd Green says the Government has so far earmarked $9 million to assist local negro yam farmers in their fight against the yam rust disease.

Green was speaking to The Gleaner on the sidelines of the 10th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay on Tuesday.

“We have already put nine million dollars [into] what we call an emergency response to help our farmers who we see are affected, to be able to buy chemicals so they can get the preliminary treatment that we have prescribed,” Green said.

Yam rust, also known as Goplana dioscorea and Goplana australis, is reportedly caused by a fungal pathogen.

Research has indicated that its symptoms include yellow spots or pustules on upper leaf surfaces.

The disease came on to the local radar in early May but has been rearing its ugly head in St Lucia since the start of the year. However, Green told The Gleaner that the Jamaican government has “full control” of the issue.

“Clearly, any sort of disease in any crop is something that we take very seriously, and we have a very robust surveillance system to try and pick up when we are having challenges,” the minister explained.

“We would have picked up yam rust about a month ago. We sent out an advisory to our farmers, in terms of what to look out for and how to treat with that.”

Yam rust disease has so far been identified in sections of Manchester, and in a Sunday Gleaner article published in May, president of Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Lenworth Fulton pointed out this is first time the negro yam is being affected by this pathogen.

“There is a problem with negro yam, which has never happened before. This disease that affects yam leaves is quite common in the soft yam and sweet yam family, and it is treatable with a fungicide. What is puzzling is that this fungus does not show up itself well in very hot weather, which is the case now with the negro yam.”

Last month local farmers in Manchester told The Sunday Gleaner that they were worried over the loss of their produce to the disease. Bryan Reid, a farmer in Chudleigh, explained that he consistently supplies yams to the export market. However, at the time of the interview, he was looking at approximately $500,000 in loss due to the fungus.

In the meantime, Green noted that state agencies, through the agriculture ministry, have been engaged to assist in collecting samples of the affected produce. He also maintained that there is no imminent danger to the local yam sector.

“There are a number of things that can cause yam rust, so we are looking to identify what is the case in this instance,” he said.

At the same time, Green shared that yam raked in approximately $50 million US in 2023. The minister made this disclosure while speaking during a riverside chat on investment opportunities in the agriculture, fisheries, and mining sectors.

“We made $50 million US from the exportation of yam. Still our yam exporters will tell you that they still need more, so you could see an over 100 per cent return if you invest in yam,” he encouraged.

To further show commitment to the yam industry, Green pointed out that major investments are being undertaken by the government through the agriculture ministry.

“What we are saying to you diasporants, if you have land, we will give you the planting materials for free. If you want land, you can apply because we have some new agro plants coming.”

“The government has invested about $81 million to provide planting materials so that we can do 1000 acres of ackee, 1000 acres of breadfruit, 1000 acres of mango over the next two years so when I say now is the time, now is the time,” Green charged.

rochelle.clayton@gleanerjm.com