July 13, 2011

Technical experts on the pink hibiscus mealy bug from Belize and Central America are meeting in San Ignacio Town this week. A three-day international/regional forum is giving Belizean experts a change to share the secrets of Belize’s success in controlling the pest with the rest of the region. It is the second such workshop which is being facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Belize Agriculture Health Authority and the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health. Fermin Blanco is the country representative for OIRSA in Belize.

Fermin Blanco – OIRSA Country Representative
“The main objective of this international workshop on pink hibiscus mealy bug is to update our member countries, OIRSA which is Mexico, Central America, Panama, the Dominican Republic on the success story of the biological control of the Pink Hibiscus mealy bug in Belize and also to expand the surveillance programme that we have in place to our neighbouring countries in the event the mealy bug crosses the border, reaches Guatemala or Honduras then they can detect it on time and have it under control.

Patrick Jones - Reporter
How successful is the mealy bug programme in Belize?

Fermin Blanco – OIRSA Country Representative
“Well we have kept this pest under control meaning that it has not make the jump from the hibiscus to the commercial crops for example it is not in the papaya, it is not the in the citrus, it is not in the banana or other agricultural commercially produced products. It is only in the urban areas where the ornamental plants are so we have kept it there.”

The pink hibiscus mealy bug is a small pest, measuring only three millimeters. But experts say it can wreak havoc on the nation’s economy.

Fermin Blanco – OIRSA Country Representative
“In the event it goes into the commercial production then the restriction to international trade is one that will surely be affected. That is why member countries don’t want this pest. In the event that happens then their trade will be limited and to get back a market it takes time, negotiation, and declaring pest free areas which is totally expensive. To avoid that we have to keep an active surveillance.”

The three-day workshop which ends on Thursday is being held at the San Ignacio Hotel.

Live and let live