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Mealybug plague is spreading

Mealybug plague is spreading

AN agriculture official in Banteay Meanchey province said Thursday that three districts have now reported the presence of cassava mealybugs, a pest that has been held partly responsible for the destruction of millions of tonnes of cassava in Thailand.

Sok Chea, deputy chief of the provincial Agriculture Department, said the mealybugs, which are believed to have travelled across the border from Thailand, have been reported in Svay Chek, Thmor Puok and Malai districts, though he noted that there were no reliable estimates of how much damage, if any, they have caused.

“Through my research, I have found that the pest has spread through the wind in the dry season, but that the pest can only damage young cassava crops,” he said.

“There is no way to stop them besides getting another bug from Thailand to eat them,” he said.

Thai media have reported that cassava mealybugs are one factor contributing to a blight that could reduce 2009-10 cassava yields there to 23 million tonnes from an earlier projection of 29 million tonnes. Private sector analysts have said such declines could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Som Yen, director of the Malai Trading Company, a cassava broker, said he did not believe farmers in his district would stop growing the crop even if the pests proved destructive. He expressed optimism that the problem would soon be eradicated. “I think that the pest would not survive the upcoming rains before and after the Khmer New Year in April.”

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