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Joint DOA USDA Workshop

(L-R)Joseph Seales, Entomologist, Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Land & Marine Resources, Kishore Ragbir, Agricultural Officer I, Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Land & Marine Resources, Lionel Wayne De Chi, Agricultural Scientist, USDA-APHIS-IS, the Hon. Mr. Kurt Tibbetts, Minister for Agriculture, Ms. Jennifer Ahearn, Acting Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of DAPAH, and Brian Crichlow, Acting Assistant Director - Agriculture, (DoA).

On Tuesday, 27 January 2009, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to host a week-long workshop on the "identification of fruit flies of economic importance."

Part of the Department of Agriculture's commitment is to continually upgrade and enhance its technical capacity to respond to the needs and challenges faced by the agricultural sector. The workshop was designed to equip DoA staff with the knowledge and skills to deal with exotic pests that has invaded the region.

Speaking at the opening ceremony Tuesday morning the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, JP, said "It gives me comfort to know that the Department of Agriculture is not only taking steps to improve local crop outputs, but is also undertaking training like this to better prepare its staff to proactively take steps to protect our existing fruit production."

Minister Tibbetts, himself an owner of a number of fruit trees, praised the Director of Agriculture's proactive approach "to establish a network of monitoring sites, which will allow for the early detection of these pests, particularly those of economic importance, should they enter our islands."

The Minister was joined at the opening ceremony by Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, Ms. Jennifer Ahearn. In addition to the Minister's opening remarks, the brief ceremony also featured welcome remarks by the Director of Agriculture Mr. Adrian Estwick and an overview of the workshop by Mr. Lionel Wayne De Chi, Agricultural Scientist with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS)

In his remarks Mr. De Chi highlighted the USDA's commitment to assist the Caribbean region in combating exotic pests of which fruit flies have been identified as a priority area.

At the 2007 inaugural meeting of regional plant health directors, at which the Cayman Islands was represented by Director of Agriculture Mr. Estwick, six working groups were formed to address pest problems in the Caribbean, with one group focusing on Fruit Fly detection and control. Mr. De Chi explained, "The region is aware of the fact that when there is an invasion of a pest to any country in the Caribbean area this eventually spreads to the other islands, and as such, this group has decided that transparency and the sharing of information between each other must be a cornerstone in the success to the forum."

Joining Mr. De Chi as trainers for the workshop, were Entomologist Joseph Seales, and Agricultural Officer I Kishore Ragbir, both are from the Ministry of Land and Marine Resources in Trinidad and Tobago, who participated with the kind permission of the Trinidad and Tobago government. It is a policy of the USDA to use regional resource persons who have been previously trained by the USDA to assist with on going training in other Caribbean countries, Mr. De Chi explained.

During his remarks Minister Tibbetts highlighted the excellent working relationship between the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture and the USDA and thanked Caribbean partners like the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry for their support of these regional initiatives. Addressing the workshop's participants Minister Tibbetts emphasized the forum as an opportunity for the Department of Agriculture staff to take advantage of having knowledgeable trainers at their disposal to answer questions and share experiences. "I look forward to the time when our own DoA staff are part of this regional network of resource persons" said Minister Tibbetts.

The curriculum of the workshop was designed to achieve a number of specific outcomes as follows:

  • To strengthen the capability of Department of Agriculture staff to identify fruit flies of economic importance.
  • To create a network of trapping sites to aid in the early detection of the potential entry of fruit flies into the Cayman Islands.
  • To confirm the absence or presence of fruit flies in the Cayman Islands.
  • To learn identification techniques which will enhance the capabilities of the front line Inspection Services staff to detect, identify and prevent the entry of the fruit flies.
  • To enable the Department of Agriculture to fully participate in and contribute data to the regional programmes related to the identification, monitoring and management of fruit flies within the Caribbean.
  • To proactively train and enable the Department of Agriculture staff to respond to the needs of the agricultural sector in the event of the confirmation of the presence of these pests or their entry into the country.