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#487027 - 02/28/14 04:44 PM Citrus greening threatens citrus industry
Marty Offline

The present crisis involving the fallout of the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and Banks Holdings Ltd. has certainly taken a toll on the besieged citrus industry; however, there is also a very real, ever-increasing threat to the industry which makes a resolution to the Citrus Products of Belize (CPBL) current cash flow crunch even more urgent.

Citrus greening disease, also known by its Chinese name HuangLongBing (HLB) or Yellow Dragon Disease, has been labeled as the worst disease to afflict citrus, especially since there is no cure and groves of trees have been known to decline within 1 to 10 years of being infected.


Today, Amandala took a trip to Plant World Nursery, a 4-million dollar nursery project – funded and maiintained almost entirely by the CGA – which is designed to prevent the spread and transmission of the disease (which is carried by insects such as the Asian citrus psyllid) by nurturing citrus trees that are free from the disease.

Nursery Manager for the CGA, Thomas Tate, told us about the facility – which can house up to 360,000 plants at any given time. Tate said, “We have here a 360,000-plant capacity citrus nursery which is divided into 3 buildings of 1 acre each.”

Tate told us that nurseries used to be open-air operations where the trees were planted in the ground; however most trees are now planted indoors in bags due to the threat of the HLB disease.

Although there are sanctioned nurseries such as Plant World Nursery in Red Bank Village just off the Southern Highway, Amandala understands that there are many other renegade nurseries in the area which are run by ‘large farmers’ who choose to discount the dangers of the HLB disease and run the risk of operating outdoor, illegal nurseries.

Tate mentioned that nurseries such as those thrive due to lack of enforcement regulations by authorities.

Veronica Manzanero-Mahil, Research and Extension Director of the Citrus Research and Education Institute, expounded on the prevalence of the HLB disease, its effects and the role that she plays in that very critical aspect of the citrus industry. She stated, “At the Citrus Research and Education Institute, we look specifically at threats, and one of the major threats we are looking at right now is the presence of HuangLongBing in Belize because it is a very devastating citrus disease if not managed.”

The disease – which was first detected in Belize in 2009 – has the potential of wiping out the entire citrus industry in Belize. In terms of the CGA’s approach to combating its effects, Mahil said, “The CGA has been the leader in the management of HLB. We have implemented several strategies; one of them being the regional area-wide management of the vector, which is the most important control strategy. The second is the production of clean, certified plants. The CGA not only has a nursery, but we also manage the [citrus certification] program and we support other nurseries in ensuring that only clean, disease-free plants are produced in the citrus industry.”

Belize is not the only country trying to battle the HLB disease — developed countries such as Brazil and the United States are also reportedly under attack from HLB, and are having difficulties curtailing its spread.

Although no assessment has yet been made in Belize as to the losses related to citrus greening since the required experts are not readily available in the country, Amandala understands that the cost of fighting off the deadly disease has been significant.

There has been much criticism locally of the use of public funds to invest in an industry which may soon be devoured by an incurable and many times irrepressible disease.

Mahil asserted, however, that there is hope for the citrus industry in Belize since Brazil and Florida have other environmental issues and diseases that also affect their citrus plants. She suggested that local growers can overcome the disease, but all parties, including Government, need to be on-board in order for the effort to be successful. Mahil explained, “The CGA has been proactive, but with HLB we need everybody on-board and we need the Government to pass legislation so that all stakeholders in the industry fight against this disease because even though the CGA is making efforts, we need the government to play its role.”

Growers who are not a part of the CGA reportedly do not recognize HLB as a problem and have been lackadaisical in dealing with its presence.

According to the CGA, these ‘large growers’ – who make up over 40 percent of the industry – ignore recommendations to properly handle citrus greening and believe that the solution to the problem is the simple use of fertilizer.

We are told that small growers, on the other hand, are worried because the disease has caused many of their fruit to grow deformed and fall off the trees, which is a situation that has worsened extensively since farmers have not been able to access funds to pay their workers, much less combat the disease.

In terms of the government’s role in warding off the occurrences of the disease – which we understand has been minimal at best – Mahil said that the hope is that GOB would be more attentive to the disease now that they have a stake in the industry. “I think now with the Government on-board, it really gives a brighter future for the citrus industry because while the Government has been dormant in legislating control strategies for HLB, they now have a stake and a responsibility to protect these public funds, and they will be more willing to regulate and legislate what ought to be done to manage this disease so that we can have the existence of a very productive citrus industry”, she asserted.

While the CGA and the large farmers have different approaches to citrus greening, Growers Investment Company Chairman Denzil Jenkins agreed that there needs to be a unified approach in order to lessen the probability of devastating effects from HLB. Jenkins said, “As soon as we discovered the disease, our researchers knew that it was a threat. Within 3 days, we had a meeting with the Prime Minister to try to alert the Government as to the seriousness of this disease. It has taken 5 years for the kind of seriousness that we believe needs to be given to this disease, and we can only say at this point that we are thankful that the PM and GOB realize the need for nothing less than a unified approach to the management and control of HLB.”

Amandala


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#488450 - 03/22/14 11:17 AM Re: Citrus greening threatens citrus industry [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Bill Lindo; A Citrus Expert Now

We've spoken plenty about the citrus industry recently - mostly about the government funded bailout. But very little of that talk has been about the citrus greening disease which threatens to decimate Belize's citrus industry.

There are ways around greening, but once a tree is affected, it is incurable. Just last month, the New York Times quoted a senator as saying that Florida's citrus crop is quote, "totally threatened….If we don't find a cure, it will eliminate the citrus industry."

That's how serious it is, and "concerted efforts by growers and millions of dollars spent on research to fight the disease have so far failed."

University of Florida agricultural analysts concluded that between 2006 and 2012, citrus greening cost Florida's economy $4.5 billion dollars and 8,000 jobs.

All that from a disease spread by an insect smaller than the head of a pin. The insect snacks on citrus trees, depositing bacteria that gradually starves the trees of nutrients.

But, one Belizean says he has a solution. Self-styled economist and machinist Bill Lindo is now an agronomist, it appears. He sent out a release on Wednesday saying that he's developed what he calls a propriety formula based on quote, "A keen understanding of God's Nature which is non-linear, holistic, ordered, (and) intelligent.

Sounded like a lot of hot air to us, and so Jules Vasquez grilled Bill about this formula, which he says is all about soil:...

Jules Vasquez
"Tell us what this propriety formula is about?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"It is a home-made chemical made in Belize using products that spray on the tree along with other things done in the soil. The problem with the greening is not the insect. The problem is a soil borne problem that cause by other problems making trees very weak and very sick. Greening and all these disease basically is a problem of health, it is a problem of immunity, it is the soil."

"The citrus problem has a big problem. For the past 3 years I've been fighting all of the established people stop using potassium chloride, why? Chloride does not work. Citrus trees are very sensitive but it's cheap. It cost 30% cheaper than the potassium sulphate."

Jules Vasquez
"So then you are saying that we are in the grips of a citrus greening outbreak because we are cheap?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"That is part of the problem, which is a big part of the problem. It's easy to solve."

Jules Vasquez
"The correct thing that you proposed is expensive because you have to buy the expensive fertilizer and you have to pay for the services of Lake I Development Company Ltd. - that's your company and I would imagine your services aren't cheap."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No, I do testing cheap. I do it cheaper than anybody else - I do it for $100."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, botanist all over the world; botanist in the richest countries, the most populous countries, China, the United States can't find a cure for citrus greening."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"In China they have, but the world doesn't know about it."

Jules Vasquez
"You can't keep any secrets in the world."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"They know what they are doing and it's all in Chinese. Now in Florida they have conquered it you know."

Jules Vasquez
"I don't know that, I just come off the University of Florida website and they are calling it incurable."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"If you leave it to them you would be broke."

Jules Vasquez
"The University of Florida is the largest....."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"I know who they are and I read all their stuff, but I am telling you if you leave it to them, you'd be broke."

Jules Vasquez
"How can you be smarter or more intuitive than these huge companies in the United States who have a vested interest in solving this problem?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No they don't."

Jules Vasquez
"I don't mean the companies selling the herbicides and all the "cides." I mean the companies who have huge investments in citrus - they are losing. How can they not figure it out if you can figure it out and you don't even have an orchard."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"I don't have to have an orchard to figure it out. I have a brain that God gave me."

Jules Vasquez
"They have an investment that they have to protect."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"You know what is the problem? The problem is the way you think, it is a mindset and they will never think and they will never solve anything because of their minds."

Jules Vasquez
"You are referring you release to schools. You are not a school man."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No."

Jules Vasquez
"The last time you were a self-style economist."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"Economist/dredge/machine maker."

Jules Vasquez
"Now you are an agronomist/botanist/horticulturist...?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"Yes because I went to school where the school men teach and I learn the foolishness that they teach."

Jules Vasquez
"One is free to have philosophical luminations, but now you are dabbling in science. Bill you don't have a lab, Bill."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"I have a lab at home, I test soils."

Jules Vasquez
"You have a kit, you have a...."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"Yes, but I even come up and I make own "re-egence" because I can't get what I want, so I make what I want."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you the owner of a citrus orchard?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No, I am planning to do one later this year though."

Jules Vasquez
"Physician heals thyself."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No, I know what I am doing."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, you are independently wealthy and some would say..."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"No."

Jules Vasquez
"You are, in real estate holding alone, your assets have to value in the tens of millions."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"That doesn't have anything when you don't have cash."

Jules Vasquez
"Dr. Taegar always says the land is the bank."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"I will not argue with Dr. Taegar."

Jules Vasquez
"An observer would say this is cynical in the extreme. You have no skin in the game, you don't have a citrus orchard, these poor growers out there are fighting this disease and you come along.."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"They are fighting, they are not doing anything. You know what they are doing? They are abandoning the orchards."

Jules Vasquez
"So how can the farmer who is already beaten down by diminished yield and diminished earnings, how can he put his confidence in someone without a proven track record and who is not sure is a snake oil sales man or a scientist or an economist or what?"

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"And a dredge builder, building machines because I am doing that also and I am good at it. I do many things because God gave me a brain."

Jules Vasquez
"But I am not sure you do any of them well."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"They are doing well because the proof is in the eating."

Jules Vasquez
"But at the end of the day you are making a pitch for your product and for your consultancy, but how cynical would it be because these people have their entire lives invested..."

Bill Lindo, Lake I Development Ltd.
"And they are losing it. All it will cost them is $100 to get a soil test and spend $2.50 a box for fertilizer and that's all. You are spending more than that right now, so this is cheaper."

For its part the citrus growers association is conducting area - wide spraying campaigns to kill the insect that spreads the disease.

Channel 7


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#488462 - 03/22/14 12:02 PM Re: Citrus greening threatens citrus industry [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Don't listen to him; waste of time.
_________________________
Belize based travel specialist
www.belize-trips.com
info@belize-trips.com

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