News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – “I am pleased today, once again, to announce to Bermuda that YES! WE HAVE BANANAS!
“It is our hope and belief that we now, as an island, will have access to a steady supply of bananas!”
That was the crux of what Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban had to say at a news conference held on Friday to reiterate the importance of plant Biosecurity.
“Earlier this week Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) personnel began examining the shipment of bananas which arrived on the dock Sunday, August 9th, and have examined about 80 percent so far. Inspections are expected to be completed bySaturday, August 15.
“So far the bananas checked have been clean and pest free and some of those bananas are already available in local grocery stores – which were received, as I witnessed this past Tuesday, with great enthusiasm from the general public. Even in these early days stores have struggled, in a good way, to keep them on the shelves. Bermudians have, with joy, welcomed back their favourite fruit to the island.
“This has been a long process, but I and the team at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are committed to ensuring that Bermuda has access to pest free bananas,” said Mr Roban.
In follow up to the Ministerial Statement he made in the House of Assembly in February, he noted that “this journey with bananas began in late 2018 due to continued contamination of pests being found in imported banana shipments”.
“Many bunches of imported bananas were found to be infested with two insect pests – scale and mealy bug,” said Mr Roban.
“Inspections of local distributors and grocery stores at that time revealed infestations with these pests to be widespread throughout all imported bananas. The number of live mealy bug and mealy bug eggs was alarmingly high and posed a serious risk to Bermuda’s banana industry, local crops and ornamental plants. The scale and eggs were detected on all parts of the imported banana fruit.
“Independent testing verified the mealy bug as a species that was not known to Bermuda.”
On that note he said: “Plant biosecurity is of paramount importance to any country, to safe guard food security, sustainability of agricultural and horticultural production, and also protect the livelihood of farmers and landscapers.
“It is the work of the team at DENR Plant Protection Lab to ensure that Bermuda remains free of many devastating pests which are causing serious damage and loss elsewhere in the region. Exposing these pests to the local environment could lead to their establishment on locally grown bananas, fruit trees and other crops resulting in reduction in yields and crop quality. We must prevent the entry, establishment and spread of invasive species in Bermuda,” he added.
“There is a process local importers must follow which requires their product to be pre-inspected in the country of origin prior to export. Upon arrival into Bermuda, each shipment is inspected by our own trained DENR staff. This process is meticulous and rigid, but it is in place to ensure clear, healthy and uninfested produce and agricultural products enter Bermuda.
“The actions taken to attack this problem with more intensive screening was costly to both the Government and importers. This resulted in the choice of importers to suspend banana imports in early February 2020. We remained confident that ultimately we could work with importers to implement an eventual solution.
“The shipment we have received in recent days is an example of our determination to work with willing parties to gain a solution. I wish to commend the persistence of the importer, Mr Roland ‘Junior’ Hill of J&J Produce to do what was required to bring a successful banana shipment to Bermuda.
“While the bigger suppliers gave up on this process, the farmer, Mr Hill, did not and he succeeded. This is no small feat.”
- Top Feature Photo Left to Right: Acting DENR Director Terry Lynn Thompson, Minister Walter Roban, Mr Roland Hill