United States Government Launches “Don’t Pack a Pest” Program in Dominican Republic

Today, at the International Airport Las Americas in Santo Domingo officials from the United States of America Embassy along with representatives from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture officially launched the “Don’t Pack a Pest” Program. The event was attended by Mr. William Weissman, Charge d’ Affairs, a.i of the U.S. Embassy, Dominican Republic Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Luis Ramón Rodríguez and Dr. Manuel Sánchez Hermosillo, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Country Director.

The “Don’t Pack a Pest” program is designed to raise public awareness regarding the risks associated with passengers potentially introducing pests and diseases into the Dominican Republic, the United States and the Caribbean Region, by carrying agricultural and food items when they travel.   Thousands of pounds of agricultural produce, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and sausages are confiscated at ports of entry from passengers on a daily basis.  Some travelers are not aware these items are prohibited, while some knowingly attempt to bring these items into the countries.  These items pose a serious threat to our food and fiber resources as exotic invasive pests can enter through this pathway and become established causing economic loss or eradicate endemic species.

The Dominican Republic is the fourth offshore location in the Caribbean to partner in the Don’t Pack a Pest outreach program.  The program will include digital signs at the airline counters along with posters and awareness materials placed at strategic areas in: the International Airports Las Americas and Puerto Plata and the Santo Domingo cruise ship port, with additional ports to be included in the future.  Materials will be jointly provided by the U.S. and Dominican governments.  Similar programs are already in operation in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Don’t Pack a Pest outreach program is a collaborative effort and formal partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service (USDA-APHIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture and, with further support by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).