Cabinet willing to take ‘calculated risks’ on importing trees from Suriname

Coconut palm tree suffering from lethal yellow disease

By Carl Joseph

The government of Suriname has made an offer to the government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) to provide tens of thousands of seedlings and/or saplings to replace the over 100,000 palm trees that has suffered and/or eventually died from the lethal yellowing disease over the last 10 years.

The Surinamese offer has not yet been accepted, however. This past Wednesday, Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr. Jenil Gore-Francis met with Cabinet members and expressed to Cabinet members on some serious concerns over the government’s planned importation.

Cabinet spokesman, Information Minister Melford Nicholas expressed Dr Gore-Francis’s concerns: “Her main concern is with more pests entering into our biosphere.”

Dr Gore-Francis expressed a fear of importing a pest not native to Antigua and Barbuda known as the brown pest. The official expressed that there could be no wisdom in exchanging one kind of pest for another.

Nicholas says that despite the doctor’s concerns, however, “the development requirement is going to supersede the ongoing and underlying fears and at some point in time we have to take the risks… calculated risks.”

“Often times,” Nicholas stated, “we’re undertaking programs and initiatives where there are inherent risks and what you have to do is to manage them. And so, I think we cannot have a view that because we have an ultimate concern and fear of something bad happening that we don’t do anything… That type of paralysis does not work.”

The government says it is doing its due diligence, however. Trade Minister Paul Chet Greene, also made a trip to Suriname to witness the thousands of palms being grown and earmarked for export to Antigua.

“There environment is a different biosphere from ours,” said Nicholas of Suriname.

“They have indicated that the plants that they would have offered us are resistant to certain types of pests. And, I think what the minister of trade has undertaken to do with the plant protection agency here is to initiate the conversation… starting from ground zero to satisfy and allay the fears that Dr Francis and her team may have.””

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