Willemstad - Plants for agriculture or ornamental horticulture can enter Curaçao without being examined for pests, allowing the spread of a pathogen such as the Red Palm Weevil, a red beetle that has affected date palms on the island. Biologist Gerard van Buurt warns customs needs agriculture specialists at the ports of entry.
Little information is available in Curaçao about invasive animal and plant speciesl. "A lot of what grows and lives on the island has been imported," says Van Buurt. ,,Some species arrived centuries ago, others recently."
For the purchase abroad of plants and biological material for landscaping, an importer must have a phytosanitary certificate. But when the plants and products arrive in Curaçao, they are not checked for pathogens. ,,Examination would be wise, of course, if you want to protect your agriculture and nature,” says Van Buurt.
The Red Palm Weevil traveled to Curaçao on date palms from Egypt. Van Buurt: ,,When this beetle was found in Spain and other countries near he Mediterranean Sea, the Egyptians could no longer sell their palms in that part of Europe. The price of the trees plummeted, and landscapers in Curaçao decided to take advantage shipping a large amount of date palms to Curaçao. There are still a few on the Karel Doormanweg, while most of these trees have died. Palms had also been shipped to Aruba, with the same dramatic result.”
In countries with an agricultural interest, import is examined at customs for the presence of pathogens, Van Buurt explains. "In Brazil, for example, a designated inspector checks all imports. In case of doubt, plants are either put in quarantine or destroyed."
Van Buurt mentions examples of mosquitoes, beetles and mites that have entered Curaçao and, in the case of mites, have disrupted the production of honey on the island. "A lot could have been prevented with good policies for regulation and control," says Van Buurt, who assisted a committee at the Ministry of Health, Environment and Nature before his retirement. He advised on a law for the supervision and control of invasive species. "The draft national ordinance has been completed since 2013, but has not yet been presented to parliament.”