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Ministry teams up with US to block dangerous pests

Published: 
Monday, May 28, 2018
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, left, and US Embassy Charge d’Affaires John McIntyre following the “Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest Outreach Programme” at VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport, Piarco, yesterday. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

There is a high risk of diseases such as Foot and Mouth crossing the border from Venezuela and entering T&T, said Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat.

He said such a scenario was “very worrisome and if it gets here it will decimate our livestock sector,” as he referred to the influx of Venezuelans along the southwestern peninsula bringing goods to trade for food.

Rambharat was speaking at the launch of the “Don’t Pack a Pest Programme” at the VIP Lounge, Piarco International Airport last Friday.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s “Don’t Pack a Pest” outreach programme is a collaborative effort with the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The programme is designed to raise public awareness regarding the risks associated with passengers potentially introducing pests and diseases into T&T, the US and the Caribbean region, by carrying agricultural and food items while they travel. Thousands of pounds of agricultural products are confiscated at ports of entry from passengers. Some travellers do not know that these products are prohibited. These uncertified items pose a serious threat to our food and fibre resources as exotic pests can enter through this pathway and become established, causing millions of dollars to manage or eradicate.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this programme will include the placement of signs at strategic areas in the Customs areas of the Piarco Airport, along with the distribution of other public education materials to the travelling public.

John McIntyre, Charge D’Affaires, US Embassy in T&T who also spoke at the event said the programme is important for T&T and the rest of the region.

“The volume of travel between the US and the Caribbean is significant. Approximately 1.4 million people from the Caribbean visited the US in 2015. I think those numbers are the same going into 2018 and 2019.

About 7.8 million US citizens visited the Caribbean that same year. As the volume of international travellers increases, so does the possibility that travellers could unknowingly introduce a serious threat to the agriculture eco-system and natural resources not only to the US but also T&T and other Caribbean neighbours.”

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