M.A.F. re-sends virus samples to Germany

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tilafono David Hunter.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tilafono David Hunter. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The Ministry of Agriculture has re-sent samples of the virus that affected some parts of Samoa to Germany for the second time.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tilafono David Hunter said this was a result of the initial samples not being “good enough”.

“Hopefully we will get results at the end of this month (last month),” he said.

Tilafano suspects the virus might be the Taro vein Chlorosis.

“This has similar symptoms to the virus that affected parts of Upolu but “as mentioned earlier, it’s better for us to wait on the results from Germany. He said that preventative measures at this time are very important.”

“Yes, we don’t have much for the media but the Ministry is working closely with farmers at the affected areas and many other farmers across the country.”

“That is working together with the community in ways and methods to protect the spread of the virus in the country.”

“And that is what is happening for the duration of the wait until the result from Germany is back.”

Taro virus has created a lot of problems for local farmers. And that is also despite the assurance from the Ministry of Agriculture that the nation has nothing to worry about in terms of a new unknown virus.

Still farmers are concerned about the future of the crop. A 46-year-old farmer from Mauga Savai’i, Moe Paono, said the absence of an immediate update about the state of the virus that  surfaced at the beginning of last month is concerning.

 “I’m from Savai’i and even though I haven’t received any confirmation about the virus crossing over to our island, I still worry,” he said.

 “What we were told (media) a number of weeks ago is that the government banned the transportation of taro shoots between the two islands (Savai’i and Upolu).”

“In my opinion, there is no guarantee that will stop the spread of the virus to parts of Savai’i, Apolima and Manono.”

Moe went on to say that the Ministry should work together with all the farmers in the country. That  is to prioritise ways especially for farmers (not just from affected parts of Upolu) to ensure safety.

 “We may never know what tomorrow will bring. There’s no time to wait on those samples...but I think the idea is to ‘work together’...they should let us know that these are some of the ways that we can protect our crops.”

 Toa’e Lemigao from Tanumalama shared Moe’s views on the matter.

“The disease could lead to a huge loss in our economy especially because most of our people rely on taro plantation.”

Toa’e said the government should keep the public well informed.

“We need to know what is happening.”

“All we heard is that there is a new virus but apart from that we haven’t been told anything else.”

 “No further notices. It seems to me that they’re saying that there’s nothing to worry about. That’s fine but what if it grows and becomes another taro leaf blight?”

Last month, the American Samoa Department of Agriculture suspended importing taro and taro shoots from Samoa.

 “I mean that’s not small,” Toa’e said.

“What will happen when other countries suspend the export of our taro? We should be talking about this. The government should be working with farmers on ways to prevent this from spreading.”

“As a farmer, I’m very worried about the virus. The virus could result in the severe loss of income for us and the economy will eventually be affected.”

“I mean taro is not only to feed my family, but also to put my children in school.”

The farmers believe prevention is better than cure.

 “I don’t want to remember the taro leaf blight (lega) and how it devastated Samoa back in the 1990s. This is why we have to be proactive about this.”

The most recent epidemic of Taro Leaf Blight spanned the Samoan Archipelago from 1993-1994.

The Taro Leaf Blight epidemic of Samoa in 1993 is an example of extreme devastation of what this virus can cause if preventative measures are not used to control the spread and symptoms.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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