By Theresa Goodwin
The dream of a veteran farmer to do his part, in replacing hundreds of citrus trees that were damaged due to the citrus greening disease years ago in Antigua and Barbuda, has been crushed after unknown perpetrators chopped down several of the very plants he had been grooming for years.
Longtime farmer, Alvin Christian, made the startling discovery last Wednesday when he visited his 20-acre farm in Creekside only to find that the tops of several of his fruit-bearing orange and tangerine trees were chopped off.
Most of his coconut trees, which take upwards of five years to bear fruit, were also chopped down.
The distraught farmer told our newsroom yesterday that he was still in the process of working with the Ministry of Agriculture to put a dollar value to the damage. Early estimates by an agriculture official puts the figure at over $100,000, so far.
Christian said that he is at a loss for words knowing that all his hard work and effort have gone down the drain.
He said that what is more troubling is that tubers from the very plants he was cultivating would go towards assisting the Ministry of Agriculture at the different agriculture stations.
He also supplies tubers to local farmers and farmers outside of Antigua and Barbuda.
The orchard which is operated by Christian, is said to be the only one that is thriving on that side of the island at this time.
“Most of what the government has is gone, this is the only one that is remaining, in recent times when Greencastle propagates, this is where they get the material from. I have been attempting to secure these so that we can have enough planting material when this thing is over, and now that we are at this stage, someone has destroyed it,” Christian said.
Acting Chief Extension Officer Owalabi Elabanjo also expressed shock at the latest development which he described as a blow to the industry.
“We are making efforts to develop our agriculture, and for whatever reason, someone chose to destroy those efforts by damaging these crops. This is not acceptable and we cannot continue to uphold this sort of action.
“I am hoping that all the relevant authorities will be able to get to the bottom of this because it can happen to anyone,” Elabanjo said.