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Protect local plants, Food and Agriculture Organization urges

The Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.) has appealed to the public to protect local plants and avoid bringing in organic material that could be a threat to local species.

The United Nations agency made the appeal to coincide with the declaration of 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health, which stresses the significance of how healthy plants can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.Gs).

Apia-based F.A.O. Sub Regional Coordinator, Eriko Hibi, said that there is no standalone project for Samoa to coincide with the occasion but emphasised that plant health is of importance to the organisation regardless.

“We have several ongoing activities in the country, including technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture as well as other wide ranging plant productions,” she said. 

The F.A.O. is encouraging people to refrain from taking fresh produce home after travelling abroad, and has appealed to decision makers to allocate more resources to plant health institutions as well as convince farmers to adopt sustainable pest management practices. 

Ms Hibi said one particular plant health issue that Samoans should be aware of is the rhinoceros beetle, which are are known to attack coconut yields and are a concern for the country.

“We are right now working with the Ministry of Agriculture, who requested our assistance in this area, in order to manage the rhinoceros beetles impact and how they affect the coconut production of this country,” she added.

But plant production is not the only focus for the F.A.O. with the African swine fever, the transboundary disease that affects pigs, has also come on its radar in response to growing fears in the agricultural world.

“We have been planning to work with having a technical mission to discuss the risks and potential options for the country to protect Samoa and Samoan pigs.

The International Year of Plant Health according to the F.A.O. is the discipline that uses a range of measures to control and prevent pests, weeds and disease causing organisms to spread into new areas, especially through human interaction such as international trade.

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