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Antigua battles palm tree crisis

Palm trees dying in Antigua & Barbuda.

St. John’s — Tourism chiefs say the killer disease affecting the region’s iconic palm trees is a matter of “national urgency”.

“Allocate the necessary resources to tackle the dreaded Lethal Yellowing disease, or fear the loss of decades old coconut palms.”

That’s the word from the Antigua Hotel & Tourist Association, who yesterday, met with government and private sector entities to look at ways to rid the country of the disease.

Association boss Neil Forrester said the time is now for the combination of efforts and resources to address the problem, which is slowing becoming a national emergency.

“We do need to come together now; I think we are at a critical stage of national urgency that the resources from all sides need to be given,” Forrester said.

He said, too, “Though the government is cash strapped, we are advocating that the resources be given to deal with this problem because it is of such importance. We drag our feet then we are going to lose our palm trees.”

Coconut trees affected

Over the past months, coconut trees have been falling prey to the disease.

The scourge was first identified in the north of the island and appears to be steadily spreading across the island and seeping into hotel properties.

“The north west corner of the island is very much affected, just drive around McKinnon’s, Marble Hill and you will see dozens of affected trees and all those trees are going to be removed because they are dead,” Forrester said.

The management method proposed by the Plant Protection Unit so far is the cutting down of affected trees, or applying the antibiotic treatment Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride to some trees.

The measures were outlined to the hoteliers who have agreed to work hand in hand with the PPU.

Head of that unit, Dr Janil Gore-Francis, has however warned that the use of the antibiotic will be regulated.

She said only specially trained individuals will be allowed to purchase and use the item as it may have serious implications for the food chain if over-used. (Antigua Observer)

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