Spraying continued at Pine Trace, Coromandel Village, Cedros on Friday as swarms of locusts continued to feed off forests and fields of watermelon, pawpaw and banana in the southwestern peninsula.
Director of the Regional Administration South Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Raffick Ali as well as supervisor Paul Phagoo, accompanied spray and surveillance teams through forested areas to monitor and track the movement of the locusts.
During an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, Ali said most of the locusts were concentrated in the forested region off Pine Road. He said Bowen Trace and Carlise Trace, which leads to the Coromandel Beach did not have a high concentration of insects.
"From what I have seen, this is not something to worry about. The locust infestation is not bad and there is minimal crop loss," Ali said.
Saying the spray teams were out, Ali said a decision was taken to not spray Bowen Trace where farmers complained of crop damage.
"We went to Pine Trace where there are lots of hoppers. They have not yet started to fly so they are more vulnerable. It allows us to have an effective spray treatment. The spray reaches them and covers them from the habitat so they die before they can go to other areas," Ali added.
Ali said there are over 100 farmers in the Coromandel/Bowen Trace areas and the locusts were seen over an expanse of over 500 acres. He agreed that the pests were migrating from traditional areas. The locusts seen here are actually the Moruga locusts. We have seen less of the Cedros locusts," Ali added.
He said those crops which were eaten away will not die.
"These crops will recover. There may be bunches of bananas eaten away but this is minimal," he added.
Asked whether spray teams were sufficient in number, Ali said yes. He added that the crop duster tractor which went down about three weeks ago will be repaired over the next few weeks.
"We expect that by the next two to three weeks we will have the funding and may have the repairs done," he added.
Ali said there were no plans to buy another tractor, saying one was sufficient.
Meanwhile, farmer Azard Baksh, who plants 30 acres of land with watermelon, pawpaw, pimento and peppers said more spraying should be done as the locusts had devastated part of his field.
"I lost about 5,000 pimento trees. We have over 100 farmers and we are never compensated for our losses," Baksh said.
He added, "I feel we need at least three tractors. The spray teams are just two people and how much can they spray?" To make matters worse, Baksh said someone broke into his toolhouse and stole his mist blower and other equipment.
"Everything crash with me right now and I have to start all over again," he added.
Another farmer Jason Jarvis said more spraying was needed.
"The locusts are in the forests now but they will come out soon. We have to take precautions now," he added.
Last month swarms of locusts were reported to have gobbled up crops from agricultural estates at Mendez Village, Penal and Bunsee Trace, Penal Rock Road.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat referred questions to Chief Technical Officer Simone Titus but calls to her cellular phone went unanswered.
- by Radhica De Silva. Photo by Ivan Toolsie.