New regulations that came into effect Monday will permit transport of certain plant products to the Sister Islands, but only on designated Cayman Express and Cayman Airways flights and only if they meet certain requirements.
The rules are part of the continuing efforts by the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture to contain the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug to Grand Cayman.
The designated flights for produce transport are Cayman Express flight 4425 Monday through Saturday and flight 4421 Tuesday through Friday, and Cayman Airways flight 105 Friday and Flight 109 Saturday.
While the new regulations will permit some plant products, all plants, cuttings or cut flowers purchased in Grand Cayman remain on the prohibited list.
Soursop, sweetsop, pineapple, breadfruit, papaya, Carambola or star fruit, jack fruit, both green and ripe bananas, plantains, hot peppers, sorrel, guavas and otaheite apples also remain prohibited.
The Department of Agriculture has found that these fruits are extremely effective at harbouring the pest and therefore pose a high risk.
However, all other fresh produce not on the above list either purchased or grown in Grand Cayman will be permitted provided that it is free of pests.
Frozen and canned fruits or vegetables are permitted, as are packaged processed fruits or vegetables or packaged processed products containing fruits or vegetables, and ready-to-eat salad mixes or leafy vegetables pre-packaged in the country of origin.
If passengers desire to transport approved fresh produce, it must be in the form of checked luggage, and the DoA asks that passengers wishing to transport produce arrive well in advance of their flight to allow sufficient time for the items to be inspected and approved.
Clean and pest-free produce will only be permitted in the hold provided it is clean and free of pests, packed separately in a cooler or other suitable container, and has been inspected and cleared by an officer of the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Health Inspection Service.
If cleared by the DoA AHIS officer, the cooler or container will be sealed and the passenger will be allowed to transport it as part of their checked baggage, not as hand luggage.
Passengers should take note that items found in a container that do not meet the inspection officer’s requirements will be rejected, any bag found to contain produce not packaged in the approved manner will be rejected, and any non-inspected containers containing produce presented at check-in will also be rejected.
Furthermore, any uninspected produce arriving in the Sister Islands will be seized and destroyed, and if it is found in a bag containing other items, the bag will also be seized.
Department of Agriculture officials say the measures were developed based on feedback from Sister Islands residents assisting in the efforts to keep the Islands free of PHM.
The DoA Assistant Director Adrian Estwick says PHM control efforts on Grand Cayman are proving to be successful in the interim, and is pleased with the high level of public participation in the program. The PHM hotline has been receiving about 25 calls every day.
Control efforts have so far seen the release of 48,000 parasitic wasps and 54,000 predator lady bug beetles since 20 July, which have demonstrated an encouraging survival rate despite fears of negative effects from MRCU spraying activities.
To report a possible PHM infestation, call the PHM hotline at: 1-800-534-2847 (BUGS).