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Caribbean specialists call for more collaboration in plant health

he Caribbean Plant Health Directors’ Forum emerged out of the need for a regional mechanism for sharing of information, collaborating, guiding policies, and addressing relevant plant health issues of importance to the Region.

The meetings are planned and convened by several agencies and organizations including the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the CARICOM Secretariat and the Ministries of Agriculture of the countries where the meetings are held.

Other partner agencies over the years include the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), CIRAD (the French Agricultural Research for Development) and CABI. Funding for the meeting is provided by the USDA-APHIS, IICA and FAO with support from the host Ministries of Agriculture.

The first meeting of the Regional Plant Health Directors was held April 23-25, 2008 at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana. A total of twenty two (22) countries were represented. Representatives from all CARICOM Member States were in attendance in addition to representatives from the CARICOM Associate States of Anguilla and the Cayman Islands.

Since the first meeting in Guyana, there have been four meetings of the CPHD Forum and the number of participating countries has increased. The fifth meeting of the CPHD was convened during August 14-16, 2012 on Scrub Island, the British Virgin Islands. Twenty six countries were represented, indicating a wider level of representation from the Greater Caribbean Region.

In addition to the CARICOM Member States and Associate Member States (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands) the following countries were represented: Aruba, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Martinique and St. Maarten. Also in attendance were representatives from the Organization on of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OIRSA), the University of the West Indies, the University of Florida, (CARDI), IICA, FAO, USDA-APHIS, CABI and the CARICOM Secretariat.

At the 5th meeting of the CPHD, new officers were elected to serve for two years. Michael Delpeche from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was elected as the chairman, Ryan Anselm from Dominica, co-chair and Eric Evelyn from Saint Kitts and Nevis, technical secretary.

The CPHD has five technical working groups (TWG) that have been formed to address key regional plant health issues. They are as follows:

• Palm pests
• Molluscs
• Tephritid fruit flies
• Safeguarding
• Emergency preparedness and response

Some of the outputs from these working groups include; development of several guidelines and procedures, on-going development of priority pest lists, on-going development of information products (e.g. the Red Palm Mite manual), and development of a database and standard recording form for fruit flies. Other outputs were a Giant African Snail survey conducted in several countries, a regional fruit fly trapping programme, and training in the detection and identification of fruit flies of economic importance.

The CPHD Forum, through technical assistance and funding provided by USDA-APHIS, FAO and IICA has achieved the following:

• Provided specialized training in mites and fruit flies
• Trained over 200 persons in the region in pest identification, fruit fly trapping and pest surveillance.
• Provided diagnostic equipment to several countries
• Supported the Regional Plant Quarantine training course

These capacity building actions have strengthened the capability of countries to respond to plant health issues and to improve plant health systems. The CPHD forum serves an important role in the Region and it is expected that this role will expand even further as more challenging plant health issues arise.

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