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The surprising enemy threatening a major industry

A common enemy of Pacific nations is now devastating Papua New Guinea’s copra plantations and denting the nation’s fourth agricultural export.

The culprit is the coconut rhinoceros beetle Guam strain (CRB-G). This particular species has not succumbed to biological and viral controls which have worked elsewhere.

The Pacific Community (SPC) has signed a new grant agreement with Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) and Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK) to assist in their efforts to control the CRB-G.

Since its discovery in Port Moresby in 2010, the beetle has spread to PNG’s Central Province on its Eastern coast and its Gulf Province along its western coast. In 2020, the pest was confirmed in Madang Province on the northern coast of PNG’s mainland.

Dr Mark Ero, the SPC’s project manager for Pacific Awareness and Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (PARC) said they have a plan.

Copra farners lineup outside a mill in PNG. Picture: Ben Jackson Twitter

“It is envisaged that through this collaboration, partners will effectively manage this pest and prevent any dire consequences it may impose on coconut producers and their beneficiaries and help protect the country’s economy,” he said.

PNG is one of the largest exporters of copra in the Pacific region, with the crop ranking as its fourth largest agricultural export commodity behind oil palm, coffee, and cocoa. It contributes approximately nine per cent of PNG’s gross domestic product.

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The CRB-G has the potential to devastate the country’s coconut industry as well as the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of people who depend upon it.

The coconut pest is resistant to the virus biocontrol and with no natural enemies, it is fast spreading into new areas.

NAQIA technical and advisory general manager, David Tenakanai said the partnership will fast track their activities on CRB awareness now that COVID-19 restrictions have lifted.

A common enemy of Pacific nations is now devastating Papua New Guinea’s copra plantations and denting the nation’s fourth agricultural export. The culprit is the coconut rhinoceros beetle Guam strain. Picture: SPC

“Due to the vastness of our country, additional financial and resource support is needed to back our efforts,” he said.

“NAQIA acts as the National Plant Protection Organisation responsible for biosecurity issues. As such, we are providing support to local industries on surveillance, monitoring, and awareness training activities.”

KIK Research and Development general manager, Dr Eremas Tade welcomed the collaboration.

“It is imperative that there is effective awareness and training to inform the public of the CRB situation in the country. We also need to disseminate this information to target groups and carry out sanitation and clean-up programs to control CRB breeding sites,” he said.

A seven-minute CRB awareness and management video has been produced and distributed to biosecurity country partners in PNG, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.

1 Comment
  1. Patrick 6 months ago
    Reply

    How exactly does the beetle attack the coconut palm and what are local mitigating factors? Are there records of beetle attacks in the past and what was done to minimise the devastation?

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