Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), Dr Oudho Homenauth has announced that while there is no ban on the importation of fruits, his organisation has recently restricted the importation of all citrus fruits.
This move, he notes, is in keeping with the policies of the Government of the day.
“We are governed by an Act of Parliament and we work with the policies of the Government of the day as dictated and based on the policies, we implement the programmes. For example, the emphasis here has been on reducing imports as far as possible because when you do that our farmers benefit,” Dr Homenauth said in an interview.
“We are not going to allow importation of any citrus products: oranges, limes, grapefruit, tangerines etc because I know we are producing that in adequate quantities. Barring what I have said there, we have to follow the quarantine rules of our country because we have to also safeguard against those pests and diseases we don’t have here,” he explained while trying to justify the ban.
Dr Homenauth told this publication that one of the pests NAREI is concerned about is “citrus greening”, which he dubbed as extremely devastating. He further related that this pest has the ability to devastate the entire citrus industry as it has done in many countries.
According to United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA-APIS) citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus) is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world. It is also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure. While the disease poses no threat to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad.
Citrus greening is spread by a disease-infected insect, the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama or ACP), and has put the future of citrus at risk. Infected trees produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice. Most infected trees die within a few years.
However, Dr Homenauth said that NAREI has never been in the business of granting permission for the importation of citrus since Guyana’s farmers are more than capable of producing to meet demands.
NAREI’s Crop Protection Department (commonly referred to as “Quarantine”) is responsible for farm certification as well as granting permission for the importation of agricultural produce.
The Department has a heavy presence at every port of entry in Guyana, so as to ensure that every agricultural product coming in to the country is catered for in the laws.
“We have to give clearance for imports that comes in, especially for fresh produce and similarly for importation for any fresh produce we have to give the necessary permission for them to come into the country because we have to follow the rules of the country as well as the World Trade Organisation as well. I know people have been saying that we are restricting import. That is not the story; what we want to do is ensure compliance. Basically what they used to do, I know that, when we give permission for people to bring in stuff, they would include stuff that is not part of the import permit. But with the new system that is being employed by the GRA with the other agencies, what it does is it picks up everything that is in the container,” the CEO explained.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) recently introduced the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), which is supposed to help fast-track these transactions, although persons have contended otherwise. (Lakhram Bhagirat)