India scientist helping to revive Trinidad and Tobago coconut industry

February 27th, 2012 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Port of Spain, Feb 27 (IANS) India has sent a scientist to Trinidad and Tobago to assist in the control of a pest affecting the coconut industry in the Caribbean nation. Thousands of acres of coconut plantations, mostly on the eastern seaside areas, are on the verge of extinction.

This is one of the immediate outcomes of a visit to India in January by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, herself of India origin like over 40 percent of the 1.3 million population of the islands.
Avvaru Sujatha, principal scientist and head of the Mango Research Station in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, has arrived on a one-year contract to assist in the control of the Red Palm Mite. The Mango Research Station is in Nuzid area of Krishna district.

Vasant Bharath, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of food production, lands and marine exploitation, said the government has started to reap benefits from the scientist’s visit.

Sujatha’s “services, expertise and experience are all free to the government”, he said. Sujatha said she will do her best and “not let down the government in combating the disease”.

The Indian scientist who has spent more than 25 years doing research on coconut pests was also praised by Indian High Commissioner Malay Mishra. Mishra expressed confidence in Sujatha’s ability to assist Trinidad and Tobago’s ailing coconut industry.

Bharath said he was told by disease control agencies across the world that it may take as many as three to four years to fight the the Red Palm Mite, but Sujatha has promised to undertake the task in one year.

He also spoke about an international soft drink manufacturer that has bought large coconut estates in Brazil and South America.

“We can use this as an engine of diversification. We can now bottle and package coconut water in Trinidad and Tobago for export, earning triple times what the coconut is worth simply because its a natural drink,” Bharath said.

He said that once the disease comes under control, around 40,000 acres of land could be used to boost the coconut industry.

People from Indian — mainly from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — were brought to the Caribbean between 1845 and 1917 to work in coconut, cocoa and sugarcane industries.

(Paras Ramoutar can be contacted at paras_ramoutar@yahoo.com)

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