DEAR EDITOR, it was in a Post issued by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) in January 2017 that I first read of the real threat for the coconut and palm tree industry in the Solomon Islands if the spread of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle intensified and went untreated as a pest.
I was aware at the time of the damage the pest had already brought to coconut palms in both Samoa and Guam and also in Hawaii and the impact of the pest on some coconut and palm oil trees in Guadalcanal.
SICCI had reached the view that the country could face a national crisis given the severity of the potential damage the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle could cause but had mentioned that the biggest challenge in combating the envisaged threat was the lack of resources and funding to carry out proper assessments and effective treatments.
Some 18 months after the SICCI warning the full extent of the damage caused by the spread of the beetle was revealed in a recent meeting in Honiara which had brought together Government, private sector and international participants to develop an extensive clean-up plan to tackle the Rhinoceros Beetle threat.
During that meeting, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Oswald Ramo, told the gathering, “Over the last four years, 90% of the palms in Honiara had been severely damaged or dead, such devastation being due to the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle.”
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing $NZ1 million (approx. SBD5.4m) to support this latest clean-up project and additional help is being given by the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resources Division, who are providing MAL with administrative and some technical support for the project.
Both the New Zealand Government and the SPC are thanked for the generous help rendered to the Solomon Islands to try and contain the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle threat and, hopefully, to eventually to be able to eradicate the foreign invading pest completely.