Plant Protection Unit puts user fees on hold

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The head of the Plant Protection Unit said a lack of finance has stalled plans to launch a campaign to educate the public about its planned user fees.
In reference to the fees proposed in February 2016 with implementation set for May 2016, Dr Janil Gore-Francis told OBSERVER media, “The only headway we’ve made since then is that it’s now actually [a] law because the schedule has now been gazetted.”
Dr Gore-Francis said her team is currently working on the structure for the implementation of the fees for import permits, phytosanitary certificates, risks assessments and inspection of all containers coming into the country.
“There are certain administrative things that have to be done, which we’re working on now in terms of setting up accounts where persons will pay. Hopefully, in another two months, we should have had all of that in place,” the official said.
Another major initiative, which falls under the unit, is the eradication of the Giant African Snail which local farmers have been fighting for years.
 The plant protection head said, “Well that is one of the things we have submitted in the budget, a project focusing on the eradication programme. We’re waiting to see what exactly has been approved.”
The Plant Protection Unit currently has 20 people on staff who respond to pest-related issues that are detected by them or reported by residents. They also oversee/monitor quarantined finds.
According to the Caribbean Invasive Alien Species Network (CIASNET) hand collecting, followed by proper disposal remains the safest means of controlling the Giant African Snail population.
In the region, some programmes advocate the use of snail traps, using beer as bait. Others have incorporated poisoning with chemicals, and even using flame-throwers to burn snails alive, but there are safety concerns associated with these methods.
In recent days, the Minister of Agriculture Arthur Nibbs announced plans to reward residents for catching the snails. Details were not released as he indicated they are still being discussed.
A similar suggestion was made in 2010, but the ministry did not think it necessary at the time. The snails have been destroying agriculture produce and ecosystems here for the past five to six years.

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