THE economy of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will fall to its knee unless measures are taken to contain the cocoa pod borer pest that has been confirmed to have reached the island.
“Without a major turnaround in the current situation, the outlook is gloomy,” Agriculture’s vice-minister Jimmy Simatab predicted yesterday.
Cocoa is the largest single source of income for the island region, generating at least an estimated K100 million annually.
It is reported that over the past year, there had been significant rise in cocoa bean exports from the island of almost 21,000 metric tonnnes.
This reflected an increase of 6,000mt from the previous year.
Mr Simatab was concerned as the pest, scientifically known as Conopomorpha cramerella, is considered the single largest threat to the future of the cocoa industry and the provincial economies that depend on this cash crop.
The reason the vice-minister cited that the island’s economy might crumble was because “the cocoa pod borer pest is spreading faster than our ability to contain it”.
Mr Simatab said when the pest arrived in the East New Britain in 2006, it had great socio-economic impact on the people that was far worse than the experiences of the 1994 volcanic disaster.
“The confirmation of the pest in Central Bougainville last week is a cause of great concern to the cocoa growers and the Autonomous Government of Bougainville,” he said.
Mr Simatab said it is vital that the Government, industry stakeholders “give due consideration” and “determine measures to reduce the effects” of the pest.
He said the Government would support the industry, as it had done in recent years, adding that it would cost K65 million over the next five years to carry out control and management measures.
“Awareness and monitoring programmes must progress in Bougainville and in all cocoa producing provinces to identify the dangers, and this disaster requires a total team effort,” he said.