The coconut palm tree, symbol of island paradise and a means of living, is being attacked by a deadly virus now in Antigua.
The disease called ‘Lethal Yellowing’ has already devastated trees in Jamaica and Florida. There are concerns that it could affect not only tourism but the use of coconuts in health and beauty products or simply those who use them to sell.
Islanders have been advised to cut down and burn any trees showing signs of the disease such as:
- Premature shedding of fruit, or
- Yellowing fronds that drop off
According to BBC News, the lack of government funding has led to a ‘rampant’ neglect of the issue. Antigua has now lost approximately 45% (out of thousands of their coconut palms), the National Horticultural Society reported. The disease can be cured by quarterly injections of antibiotic oxytetracycline (OTC) but at $450 it is ‘too expensive’ for many local people, says HS president Barbara Japal.
Moreover, using this costly antidote means that the coconut jelly or milk cannot be consumed for a year after. For now, government and locals fear there is little they can do and tourist season is already in full swing.