BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
CONTINUOUS attack by Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles (CRB) will have an adverse impact on the oil palm and coconut productions of Solomon Islands.
Hundreds of coconut and oil palm trees in the country have already been killed by CRB attacks which are very serious, according to Bob Macfarlane the Coordinator of the CRB programme in the country.
The beetle from report has already spread along the north coast of Guadalcanal and has invaded north Malaita, Savo and Ngella.
“Currently the worst effects can be seen around Honiara but if the beetle gets to village coconut plantations, the impacts on copra production and village nutrition will be huge.”
Last week, the New Zealand aid project “Improving Management of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) in Solomon Islands and PNG” led by AgResearch, New Zealand, held a meeting in Honiara to plan the next phases of their programme.
The meeting was attended by senior personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, GPPOL and the Solomon Islands Coconut Industry Working Group, the beetle disease and pest management experts from AgResearch, PNGOPRA, SPC, the University of Queensland and NGOs.
The meeting agreed that the priorities are to limit the spread of the beetle, bring the current damage under control and look for a long term biological solution to control the pest.
“Plans for a long-term solution to develop control techniques using new insect diseases are well advanced but the meeting identified two large gaps needing a rapid and thorough response.
“In particular if Solomon Islands is to avoid a huge disaster, immediate action is needed to raise awareness throughout the country about the seriousness of the threat and ways to slow its spread. Also, to work with communities to eliminate breeding sites and control the pest in areas already invaded,” Macfarlane reports.
Both these tasks are outside the capacity of the current Government or Provincial staff and finances as it was agreed that emergency funding based on new action plans is urgently needed to get the activities implemented quickly on the scale needed.
“The meeting also recognised that regional action is required to safeguard other countries from this new pest and that SPC is the logical organisation to lead this initiative.
“At the end, the meeting held a de-brief session with potential donors and the media and recommended that MAL and Solomon Islands Government approach relevant donors for urgent support.”