FAO in Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize

Citrus greening project in Jamaica reaps big returns: local government to sustain efforts

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has joined forces with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) and the Citrus Protection Agency to reduce the negative impact of citrus greening, a disease that affects the capacity of citrus trees to produce fruit and threatens to wipe out the Jamaican citrus industry. Just over two years after the implementation of this project, farmers have reported significant improvements in citrus production and quality of citrus groves.

Speaking at the project workshop in 2015, FAO Representative in Jamaica, Jerome Thomas, pointed to the improvements that small farmers in the programme have experienced since adopting the principles taught under the project. He was also quick to point out the need for continued support to ensure future successes.

"Farmers who have followed the recommended treatment have seen significant improvements in their crop production...The management of this disease helps us to demonstrate to farmers that if they follow the recommended practices, the local citrus industry can become competitive internationally," Thomas said.

Under the project, FAO allocated close to 44 million Jamaican dollars to support the national response to citrus greening. The initiative was rolled out in sections of St. Catherine and Clarendon, areas with high concentrations of small-scale citrus farms.

One year into the project, several farmers reported seeing improvements in the health of their plants, increased fruit yields and larger sized produce. They credit this to the application of the citrus greening management practices that have been introduced under the project.

The pilot project adopted a multi-pronged approach to tackling the effects of the disease. This included biological control via the release of parasitic wasps that feed on the Asian Citrus Psyllid, the vector that causes the disease. In excess of 5,000 such wasps were released by the Government's Plant Protection unit. A wide variety of improved crop management practices were also utilized by the farmers who worked together in clusters.

To provide disease-free planting material in the longer term, two enclosed nursery facilities were also built as pilots. With a capacity of up to 7,000 plants per year, the units demonstrate the best practices required to produce clean planting material for the future of the industry.

Based on initial successes, there are also plans to sustain the positive gains through a phased expansion of the project’s principles to citrus areas in other parishes such as St. Mary, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.

With continued Citrus Greening Management, Jamaica stands to gain from a 25% increase in citrus production.