The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is partnering with authorities in the United States of America (USA) to implement the 'Traveller's Don't Pack a Pest' programme in Jamaica.
The initiative, which will be launched next month, involves collaboration with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Plant Industry (FDACS); the United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service (USDA-APHIS); and the Department of Homeland Security - Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Targetted at travellers leaving and entering Jamaican and American ports, it seeks to discourage persons from bringing in uncertified agricultural commodities, which could introduce pests and diseases that could threaten the agricultural industry of both countries.
Chief Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspector at the Ministry, Shelia Harvey, tells JIS News, that thousands of pounds of uncertified agricultural produce are confiscated at ports from passengers on a daily basis.
These uncertified items, she says, pose a serious threat to agriculture, as exotic pests can enter through this pathway and become established, causing millions of dollars to manage or eradicate.
"Millions of dollars were spent some years ago in order to control the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug. If persons knew, for example, that if they brought in cuttings from plants hidden in their bags and plant it at home and there is the possibility that, that piece of plant could be infested with a pest that could establish in their garden then spread to other areas... they would not have done so. Presently, we do not have pests like the Giant African Snail and the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, and we would not want these pests to come into Jamaica", Mrs. Harvey states.
She informs that the Ministry was invited by the FDACS, USDA-APHIS and CBP to be Caribbean pilot for the programme, which was launched in the US last year.
"The US is trying to protect its borders and they realise they cannot do it alone; neither can Jamaica do it alone. We may be able to tell our Jamaicans 'don't pack a pest’; but remember we have tourists coming in, probably more than Jamaicans going out. So it is important that we collaborate," she notes.
She says that under the initiative, plant quarantine/produce inspectors, veterinary services inspectors and customs officers will be on alert at the ports for agricultural items that are brought in without the requisite import permits, phyto-sanitary and health certificates.
Through the airing of videos, placement of signage and distribution of educational materials at the airports and cruise ship ports, travellers will be sensitised about consequences of travelling with agricultural products.
They will also be advised on how they can apply for permits to bring in items that have been properly inspected and found to be free from pests and diseases.
Persons wishing to import plants, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and animals must apply for a permit online at www.moa.gov.jm. New importers will have to register, with approval or rejection given within 24 hours. If the application is approved, the importer then applies for the import permit.
The cost for an import permit for materials of plant and animal origins range between $1,000 and $3,000 and for commercial shipments an inspection fee ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. These fees are based on the weight of the commodities. Travellers, who do not declare their goods could be fined up to $25,000.
The initiative will be launched in mid-October at the Sangster International Airport in St. James; Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston; and Falmouth Pier in Trelawny.