Cyclones contribute to beetle threat

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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AFTERMATH: Destruction of houses and crops are just some of the outcomes of cyclones. Now, it is being suggested that the increase in breeding sites of the rhinoceros beetle have also come about due to natural disasters.

AFTERMATH: Destruction of houses and crops are just some of the outcomes of cyclones. Now, it is being suggested that the increase in breeding sites of the rhinoceros beetle have also come about due to natural disasters. (Photo: Vlad Sokhin)

The series of cyclones hitting the country more often than in past decades, are threatening the coconut industry by increasing breeding sites for rhinoceros beetles. 

The rhinoceros beetle is a major pest of the coconut tree in its Asian homeland and in the Pacific islands it has invaded including Samoa. 

Concerns over the increasing level of infestation of the beetle were brought to the attention of the Director General of the Pacific Community (S.P.C.) Dr. Colin Tukuitonga. 

It was one of several issues that Dr. Tukuitonga gathered from the government in his first visit to Samoa this week as the Director General of S.P.C. 

During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi earlier this week, Dr. Tukuitonga. said the issue with the rhinoceros beetle was raised amid concerns about the revitalization of the coconut, the tree of life. 

From 2014 – 2015, coconuts had contributed a hefty $5million in export revenue for the country. 

Other programmess that were set up to revive the coconut industry included a stimulus package incentive scheme for the plant and also included cocoa and coffee. 

On the business side of things, Women in Business Development Inc also has a long term village business plan with local farmers for Organic Virgin Coconut Oil selling the product to The Body Shop.  

Much of the government’s work through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to revive coconuts aims to explore the untapped potential of coconut and its export market. 

According to Dr. Tukuitonga there seems to be a genuine concern in Samoa about the beetle and its threat. 

“I don’t know how widespread it is around the region but my colleague in Agriculture who is a specialist in this stuff, supports the Prime Minister’s concerns,” he said. 

“We think it relates to the cyclones and storms distributing this thing (beetle). 

“They have done some surveys but we need to do some work on it.”

Dr. Tukuitonga pointed out that the level of infestation of the rhinoceros beetle used to be 15 percent in the 1990s.  “It’s thought that cyclones that hit Samoa since 2003, have contributed to the return of the rhinoceros beetle which has more than doubled at 40% due to the high level of fallen coconuts and increased breeding sites. 

“I was unaware of this until the Prime Minister raised it.” The Director General of S.P.C. assured everyone that the organisation will look at how big the problem is and that S.P.C. will look into it and see what they can do.  Still in Agriculture, Dr. Tukuitonga said he was also asked about the possibilities of farming opportunities for the sea cucumber.

Interest in the sea cucumber was raised by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulileuatea Polataivao Fosi. 

Dr. Tukuitonga said sea cucumber is a highly valued product in Asia and farming trials are being done in Kiribati. 

He added another meeting with the Minister on Thursday will further discuss the topic.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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