THE K100 million cocoa industry in Bougainville is in danger of being wiped out by the cocoa pod borer.
It has now been confirmed that the pest, which ravaged the tree crop in East New Britain province, has entered Bougainville.
Foreign partners and donor agencies have poured millions of kina into Bougainville to revive its agriculture following the conflict, and the focus has been on cocoa.
After the cocoa pod borer entered ENB and ravaged plantations and smallholders, quarantine measures were put in place to prevent the bug spreading to Bougainville, the largest producer in the country.
But the worst fear has now been realised.
The Cocoa Board of PNG announced yesterday that the dreaded pest was confirmed to be present on Bougainville.
Cocoa Board CEO Lauatu Tautea reacted by calling a cocoa pod borer committee meeting to be held on Sept 23 in Buka.
He has written to Department of Agriculture and Livestock secretary Anton Benjamin urging that a response unit be set up quickly.
He said from reports he had received, it was conceivable that the pest might have entered the island in January.
“It is sad that the discovery of the pest is occurring at a time when production on Bougainville has recovered significantly to a record level ever achieved by the industry since cocoa was grown on the island,” he said in a letter to Mr Benjamin.
He said cocoa production reached 20,027 tonnes in 2008-9 for the 11 months up to last month, which was higher than the level of just over 18,000 tonnes reached before the crisis broke out.
He said cocoa brought in almost K100 million in revenue for the Bougainville people.
This industry underpinned peace and restoration on the island. It is at the forefront of the island’s economic growth.
Therefore, the discovery of the pest was threatening the livelihood of the people there.
Those notified of the presence of the threat on the island included Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, Agriculture Minister John Hickey, Bougainville President James Tanis, Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc and Treasury secretary Simon Tosali.