Plant Protection Unit Pest Incursion Workshop – Evaluating Emergency Response Systems

The Plant Protection Unit (PPU) within the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday 14th held a stakeholder workshop to evaluate two priority emergency response plans. The workshop was held in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). IICA’s technical specialist, Mr. Craig Thomas, was the workshop facilitator while the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Instritute’s (CARDI) representative, Mr. Paul Lucas, was the workshop Observer.

This exercise brought together a number of stakeholders which included extension officers, crop and livestock farmers, crop research and agriculture station personnel, communication, laboratory, Ministry and Department of Agriculture administrators, the Horticulture Society, input suppliers, trade, environment, Barbuda Council, the ABDF coastguard and customs.

The dynamics of the workshop was a tabletop Simulation Exercise on the emergency response for the Tomato Leafminer, Tuta absoluta and Brown Rot of Potato, Ralstonia solanacearum Race 3, biovar 2, both pests of priority to the Caribbean region The objectives of the meeting were as follows:

1. To create an awareness amongst key stakeholders of Ralstonia solanacearum R3bv2 and Tuta absoluta

2. To evaluate the suitability of the emergency response plans (ERPs) to prevent, protect and mitigate against these two pests

3. To develop a methodology that can be used by Antigua and Barbuda to assess its readiness to respond to an incursion by either of the two pests.

The main presenter was Dr. Janil Gore-Francis, who gave an overview and information on the emergency response systems proposed for Brown Rot of Potato (Ralstonia solanacearum R3bv2 and the Tomato Leafminer, Tuta absoluta. The presentations included information on pest distribution and host range, biology and ecology, surveillance, management, and emergency response systems.After each presentation the participants were engaged in tabletop simulation exercises based on scenarios and role play of emergency response actions. The general consensus was that all stakeholders must be on board and that rapid responses and proper protocols must be followed. It was noted that some relationships already exist; for example, Customs interacts with Plant Protection routinely while the ABDF Coast Guard relates routinely with Customs) It was felt, however, that these relationships must be strengthened. Additionally, it was mentioned that there was room for improvement within the Ministry of agriculture and other government services. The farmers felt that the paramount responsibility for pest exclusion would lie with border control agencies operating at the ports of entry.

In his closing statement, the Director of Agriculture, Mr. Gregory Bailey, noted that (i) Agriculture is everybody’s business, (ii) pest surveillance is very important, (iii) there is a need to strengthen Plant Protection and the border control services, and (iv) public education is crucial going forward. In his closing statement, the Facilitator, Mr. Craig Thomas, gave assurances of IICA’s and CARDI’s continued commitment to the agricultural sector as supportive partners providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs Dr. Gore-Francis closed the session by thanking everyone for their participation and invaluable contribution which made the workshop a resounding success.