BELMOPAN, Fri. June 25, 2021– Today, June 25, the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise, Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, received a courtesy visit from the Executive Director of the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA), Mr. Efrain Medina Guerra, during which they discussed prospects for continued technical cooperation.
OIRSA is a regional authority in agricultural health, quarantine services and food safety, and it endeavors to provide support to ministries or secretariats of agriculture and livestock in its member states. In the past, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise has collaborated with the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA) to initiate a Biological Pest Control Programme that targets pests detrimental to Belize’s agricultural yield and allows the introduction of natural predators that feed on identified pests.
To bolster the aforementioned programme, OIRSA has allocated finances to train a technician from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) in entomology — the study of insects. This will enhance Belize’s diagnostic capacity as it engages in the process of acknowledging, combating and reporting problems associated with national plant health. In addition, OIRSA further provided funds to cover the cost of obtaining and submitting the documentation through which Belize can be declared free of classical swine fever (hog cholera) pending review from the International Organization for American Health.
The meeting also gave OIRSA opportune time to inform Belize of a regional threat that was discovered in Central America. It reported that a giant African snail was recently detected in Costa Rica. This discovery has raised alarm across all OIRSA member states and has resulted in the declaration of a regional emergency to control and prevent its spread.
This pest is listed as one of the most damaging snails in agriculture. It consumes at least 500 species of plants and can even cause damage to plaster structures. In addition, the Giant African Snail may at times carry a parasitic nematode that can cause meningitis in humans. The U.S. Department Of Agriculture claims that its disastrous potential impact is only heightened by its rapid reproduction. A Giant African Snail can produce as many as 1,200 eggs in a single year.
In the meeting, the working group further discussed forthcoming regional projects that will take place in Belize, including other notable local projects that will be financed by OIRSA.