Farmers in Antigua and Barbuda will receive further assistance from the Government to eradicate a pest that has been doing much damage to the local Agricultural sector, the Giant African Snails.
Despite years of fighting the plague, the destructive critter continues to spread across Antigua and Barbuda after being identified in the country nine years ago.
Minister with responsibility for Agriculture Arthur Nibbs while speaking during today’s 2017 Budget debate said the Government has managed to import EC$230,000 worth of snail bait to assist in eliminating the predator.
“That particular pest has been reeking havoc now on the Agricultural sector and thanks to the Hon Prime Minister and the Government, we have managed to import 20 thousand lbs of snail bait and a value of about EC$230,000 and are now being distributed so that we can attempt to get rid of the Giant African Snail,” he said.
He said the ministry will use every initiative possible and tag team with every stakeholder in the ministry to manage the situation which has been often times referred to as a national crisis.
“W will double up our effort Mr Speaker, we will have to get all the stakeholders together and I have had word with my colleague minister in the ministry and we will be rolling out. We want every hand on deck, every initiative that we know that can be used to tackle this pest, we will bring it to bare so that we can get rid of this problem that has been plaguing us,” he said.
Member of Parliament for the All Saints East and St. Luke Constituency Joanne Messiah welcomed the news but added that more needs to be done.
While making her contribution in the today’s budget debate, she said that after recently witnessing the implications of the snails, the government should consider seeking the assistance of an expert from abroad to eradicate the predator.
“I believe we need more, I believe we need to reach overseas and bring some other technicians here to assist the Plant Protection Unit because we have to eradicate this pest because from what I understand that snail is the single most dangerous threat to Agricultural production in Antigua and Barbuda and you don’t want to be investing all these monies in the sector and then there’s no result for the farmers and the people, it’s going to come right back down to the consumer, so I believe that we need to increase our efforts,” Minister Messiah noted.
The Giant African Snail was officially identified in April 2008, following a report received by the Plant Protection Unit of an infestation in the Jolly Hill area, close to Bolans.
The snail later took up residence in Christian Valley and Jennings, devouring the crops of several farmers, and then spread to Five Islands, All Saints, Burma and other parts of the island.
There have also been sightings of the snail at the Christian Valley Agricultural Station, which is home to a government plant nursery.